Skilfully Tackling Burn Injury Cases

Skilfully Tackling Burn Injury Cases

Personal injury claims comprise one of the largest areas of law worldwide, and not without good reason. In the US alone, thousands of auto accidents and medical malpractice lawsuits are opened each day. Just as serious (and, frequently, life-changing) as these are personal injury cases involving burns – and this is a niche where Casey Lott, managing partner at Langston & Lott, holds specialist knowledge.

In this article, Casey takes us through the ins and outs of burn injury cases, drawing upon a wealth of personal experience gained by representing many clients in this area. From an analysis of the dangers posed by unreliable smoke detectors to a look at the burn injury cases that proved most formative for his career, Casey provides an incisive examination of this vital area of personal injury law and shares a glimpse of where Langston & Lott is looking to further expand its expertise.

I know you handle all types of personal injury cases, but you have developed a niche for burn injury cases. What are the most common incidents that cause burn injuries?

We probably handle more propane explosion cases than anything. Propane explosions are much more common than people realize. We’ve also represented people who were burned by hot liquids or toxic chemicals. Defective products like e-cigarettes or portable propane cylinders can explode and cause severe injuries. Home appliances like water heaters, stoves and space heaters are the cause of a lot of residential fires every year.

Sometimes you don’t know what caused the fire, but you know the injury or death that resulted from the fire could have been prevented. For example, sometimes the fire investigators we hire to give us expert opinions on the cause of a fire can’t tell us how the fire started. They can almost always tell us where the fire started – say, on the west wall of the living room – but they can’t always tell us exactly how it started. Maybe it was faulty wiring. Maybe someone knocked a candle over. You can’t always figure it out, because sometimes too much evidence is destroyed in the fire. But I’ve never represented anyone who was burned in a residential fire where the smoke detectors functioned properly, because those people get out in time.

So, when someone is burned in a house or apartment fire, there’s a high probability the smoke detector didn’t function properly. And if the condition of smoke detectors was someone else’s responsibility – say, a landlord – then you might have a cause of action against the landlord for violating safety rules. Manufacturers of smoke detectors have advertising material that says, “every second counts”, and they’re right. Research has shown that delayed sounding of detectors dramatically increases the risk of serious injury or death.

I’ve never represented anyone who was burned in a residential fire where the smoke detectors functioned properly, because those people get out in time.

What are the most common reasons why smoke alarms do not function properly?

Many times, it’s because the detectors are not hard-wired to a power source and the battery is either dead, not installed properly, or not installed at all. Sometimes they’re installed correctly, but they don’t work because they’re out of date. All smoke detectors have an expiration date. Some models last as little as five years and some as much as 10 years. Alarm sensors wear out and dust and cobwebs make it harder for alarms to detect smoke, so it’s important to keep them clean and replace them before they expire.

Even if the detector is in date and installed properly, it may not timely detect the fire if it’s not a combination unit. There are three types of smoke detectors: ionization, photoelectric and combination units. You really need a combination unit if you want to be fully protected. Ionization and photoelectric detectors have different sensing techniques, which means they perform differently to various types of fires. Scientific testing has shown that ionization detectors can fail to provide a timely warning of slow-developing or smoldering fires, even if smoke levels are extremely high. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and several other agencies recommend installing both types of smoke detectors or combination units, but sometimes landlords sacrifice safety to save a few bucks.

What led you to focus on personal injury and wrongful death as areas of specialization?

Early in my career, I took whatever walked through the door. Family law, criminal defense – just about anything. It didn’t take me long to realize that if I was going to be a jack of all trades, I’d be a master of none. I knew I had to focus on a particular area if I was going to get where I wanted to be. I hated divorce and child custody cases. Personal injury was by far the most rewarding area of practice for me.

I still have a picture on my desk of a little girl I represented in a scald burn case. She had really bad facial scarring and she needed laser resurfacing treatments, but Medicaid wouldn’t cover it. They said it was ‘cosmetic’. I knew how badly she needed those treatments, and fortunately, we were able to convince the burn center to take an assignment on the proceeds of our civil case, so she could get the treatment she needed immediately. We ultimately obtained a really good recovery for that little girl, and we had to get the settlement court approved since she was a minor.

When I saw the little girl at the settlement hearing, I couldn’t believe my eyes. You couldn’t even tell she had been burned. It’s amazing what those treatments did for her. She gave me one of her recent school pictures where she was smiling from ear to ear, and she signed the back of it. I’ve had that picture on my desk for the last eight years. When you see things like that, it really makes you feel good about what you do.

How do you measure your success?

Professionally, I measure success by the impact I make through my law firm and in my community. I want to have a positive influence on as many people as I can, whether those people are my clients, employees, or members of my community. That’s the macro level, but the means to that end is more granular. You can be the best lawyer in the world, but if you don’t have any clients, you’re not making much of an impact. So, you have to not only be a good lawyer, but you have to be good at attracting clients. You need to be both a good lawyer and a good businessman. As with any business, you need to set clear and specific goals, both short-term and long-term. I measure my professional success against those goals.

When it comes to my personal life, I measure success by happiness and well-being, not money. I know several wealthy people who are unhappy, so money doesn’t get you there. My family is very important to me, and I have to be careful not to let my desire to succeed professionally interfere with the more important goal of being a good husband and father. It’s tough to strike the right balance at times. But nothing makes me happier than being around Amanda and the boys, so if I can be a good husband and father to them, that’s success in my book.

You can be the best lawyer in the world, but if you don’t have any clients, you’re not making much of an impact.

Do you have a particular career achievement that you feel especially proud about?

I have been fortunate enough to litigate numerous cases throughout my career that were very impactful, not only for the client we represented, but the public at large. Some cases make a lasting impact and lead to positive change that extends beyond that case.

Flame arresters are a great example. We’ve successfully litigated wrongful death cases against water heater and gas can manufacturers for failing to equip their products with flame arresters, which are safety devices designed to prevent the propagation of flames and explosions in certain equipment. Now, gas water heaters and gas containers have flame arresters. I’m not saying that this is solely because of us, but I do think the plaintiffs’ bar as a whole led to that change. Plaintiff lawyers get a bad rap sometimes, but I do believe the work we do is the impetus for regulations that lead to safer products and workplaces. Like I said, I’ve been fortunate enough to litigate numerous cases that have made that kind of impact.

But as far as one particular case or career achievement that makes me especially proud, I can’t point to just one. I think I’m proud of the entire journey. When I joined my dad in 2005, we were a firm of four – two lawyers and two paralegals. Today, we’re a team of 17 with six attorneys. John Morgan says if you’re not growing, you’re dying, and I believe that. There are lots of ways to measure growth and it’s not just by the number of people you employ. But I see consistent growth in our firm year after year, and that’s something that makes me very proud. I think winners compete with themselves, and self-improvement is a never-ending journey. My goal is to be better every year, and I think we’ve done that so far.

Can you share anything about your plans for career development in the latter half of 2023?

We’re taking a hard look at other practice areas that could be beneficial for our firm, like labor law. We’ve filed several WARN Act cases this quarter. The WARN Act, short for the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, is a US labor law that provides protection to workers by requiring certain employers to provide advance notice of large-scale layoffs or plant closures. The primary purpose of the WARN Act is to give employees who are living paycheck to paycheck adequate time to prepare for the loss of income and to seek other job opportunities.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of large-scale layoffs lately where the employers didn’t comply with the WARN Act. We took a look at those cases, and we decided to get into that practice area because we think it’s an underserved niche. Jack Simpson is running point on those cases for us, and he’s doing a great job.

If you want to have sustainable success in our industry, you have to be able to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances. I do my best always be on the lookout for other opportunities, because I don’t want to miss ‘the next big thing’. Personal injury is still our bread and butter, and probably always will be, but the largest fee I’ve ever generated came from an antitrust case. You can’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, and that’s what we’re doing with these WARN Act cases. I think it’s going to be ‘the next big thing’ for us.


Casey Lott, Managing Partner

Langston & Lott, PLLC

100 South Main St, Booneville, MS 38829, USA

Tel: +1 662-728-9733



Casey Lott is a highly experienced personal injury attorney who is actively involved in trial litigation across a variety of fields, including personal injury, product liability, burn litigation and automobile accident cases. With a wealth of experience in leading multi-district and class action litigation, Casey has received a number of accolades for his work, including ‘AV Preeminent’ peer review rating from Martindale-Hubbell® the highest possible rating for legal ability and ethical standards. He and his wife, Amanda, also provide numerous scholarships each year to students at Northeast Mississippi Community College through The Casey & Amanda Lott Scholarship and The Cynthia Langston Memorial Scholarship.

Langston & Lott is a personal injury law firm based in Mississippi and operating internationally. Founded in 1964, the firm is actively involved in trial litigation involving catastrophic injury, personal injury, product liability and car, motorcycle, and trucking accidents. The Langston & Lott team have won judgments against and negotiated settlements with many of the country’s most prominent companies and insurance carriers and have secured multi-million-dollar awards on behalf of their clients.

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