Deborah Eckland and Dan Singel, along with local counsel, represented Defendant Armstrong Extinguisher in Wall Drug Store, Inc. v. Ansul Inc., et al. (Pennington County, South Dakota District Court, 2008). This was a high-profile products liability case in South Dakota involving the famous Wall Drug Store. A fire had broken out in one of Wall Drug’s kitchens, which caused damage in excess of $1 million. Armstrong Extinguisher had been under contract to inspect and maintain that system prior to the fire.
After a lengthy investigation by many experts, it became evident that a deep fat fryer had malfunctioned because two internal thermostats had failed. When the fire erupted, the suppression system initiated. However, the intensity of the fire overwhelmed the system and the fire was allowed to spread until fire fighters were able to fully extinguish the fire.
Every defendant but our client settled before trial. Although Wall Drug Store is one of the most venerate and beloved institutions in South Dakota, we believed we had a strong enough defense that we could prevail at trial. We were right. At trial, we argued that the fire suppression system failed because it was outdated, and that Wall Drug itself was to blame because they had not wanted to spend the money to upgrade the system. After an exciting trial, the jury returned a no-liability verdict for our client.