Kin sue in hair spray fire death
By NICK DIVITO
and DON SINGLETON
DAILY NEWS WRITERS
The daughters of a Brooklyn woman who died of burns after puncturing a clogged aerosol can of Aquanet hair spray have filed a wrongful death suit against the manufacturer.
The victim, Lorraine Squicciarini, died in horrible pain on Dec. 14, 2003, one day after she tried to apply Aquanet to her hair as she did daily.
When the can's nozzle became clogged after she had sprayed on some of the product, Squicciarini picked up a can opener from a kitchen drawer, according to court papers filed in the Brooklyn Supreme Court suit.
"With the can opener, Lorraine Squicciarini opened a hole in the bottom of the Aquanet can in an attempt to clear the nozzle," according to the complaint. "The contents, including vapors and highly flammable and explosive materials," spurted from the can.
"The pilot light of the gas range ignited it," said the family's lawyer, David Schoen. "She soon became engulfed in flames, turning her whole body, virtually from head to toe, into a ball of fire."
Neighbors responding to Squicciarini's screams put her in a shower, but she wound up "in excruciating pain," with "80% of her skin burned off," Schoen said.
Squicciarini spent the last hours of her life in the burn unit of a Staten Island hospital, begging to die "to be relieved of the pain," Schoen said.
The suit against Unilever USA by Lorraine Squicciarini's daughters, Barbara Squicciarini of Staten Island and Marisa Ciancimino of Hazlet, N.J., does not specify damages, but Schoen said he will seek $10 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages.
Schoen said the daughters base their suit on alleged manufacturing and design defects and inadequate warning and instruction labeling, as well as the trauma they suffered as a result of the tragedy.
"It happened two years ago, and one of the daughters still cannot sleep properly because of what happened to her mother," the lawyer said.
Schoen said he researched earlier cases of injuries involving Aquanet and determined "the printed warning against puncturing the can, which was insufficient then, remains insufficient." Unilever USA did not respond to requests for comment.