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NRIs lose case against US firm on son's death

By: Tathagata Bhattacharya


Last Updated: September 03, 2012, 09:41 IST

NRIs lose case against US firm on son's death

Filmmakers Shonali Bose and Bedabrata Pain lost their son's death-by-negligence case against a US grooming tools major.

Los Angeles/New Delhi: An NRI couple's bid to get justice for their son failed in the US as a Los Angeles Federal Court jury did not find the argument of the party of Bedabrata Pain and Shonali Bose conclusive enough against Wahl Clipper Corp viz-a-viz the couple's elder son, Ishan Bose-Pain's tragic death while shaving himself with Wahl's Groomsman Beard and Mustache Trimmer in the evening of September 2, 2010. Ishan's face and torso caught fire. There were 65 per cent third degree burns. Doctors tried multiple skin drafts and complicated procedures to extract burnt out dead tissues and muscles. The sixteen-year-old boy, a brilliant student and an avid chess player, died of infection that led to lung failure on September 13, 2010.

"He last used the Wahl Clipper on the evening of September 2, 2010, when he emerged from his bathroom engulfed in flames," stated the suit. "The defective Wahl Clipper that (Bose-Pyne) was using caused his skin and clothing to ignite, which in turn resulted in severe third degree burns to his upper torso, including his chest, back, arms, neck, nose and mouth."

Bedabrata Pain, Ishan's father and a former senior research scientist with NASA who left space exploration to explore the celluloid world (he is the director of "Chittagong", the movie), says that "We had eliminated every other cause of ignition in the bathroom. Logic would say that the clipper was the only source of ignition. No plugs were unplugged. Nobody in the house smokes. So there were no lighters or matches at home either. We showed the clipper with the teeth missing and interference marks typically found when two pieces of metals strike against one another. We pointed out the serious design flaws. However, the jury did not find it enough."

Pain says, "True to the nature of a big corporation trying to cover its tracks, Wahl's lawyers tried every dirty trick in the book. They said Ishan was making youtube videos of starting fires, that he was not responsible. They even suggested that now that Ishan was no longer there, we were financially better off as we did not have to pay for his tuitions and upkeep. But the jury blasted them for this attempt at character assassination. So we are happy that the verdict, though not in our favour, exonerates Ishan. His name is cleared. Wahl Clipper stooped as low as to attempt to pull Vivan, our younger son who was 12 years old at that point of time and extremely attached to his brother, to the witness box."

Wahl Corporation recalled at least nine products between 2003 and 2011 which the suit mentioned. It also added that Wahl itself had identified one of the recalled products, a hairdryer, as having the potential to result in "overheating or fire".

Apart from excelling in studies, Ishan was a jazz musician and was a compassionate human being, Pain adds. "He was someone who could speak of Soviet Russia in the 1930s and at the same time could spend hours with a four year old, traits you would not easily find in today's teens," said an audibly emotional Pain.

Asked if there was a next step, Pain, also affectionately known as Bedo to his friends and colleagues, says, "The lawyers are very upset. They did a very good job, an extremely thorough job. The verdict came as a big surprise to us all. We were too shocked honestly to discuss if there was a next stop."

Pain's film "Chittagong" releases on October 12. Pain was shooting in North Bengal when the incident happened. "I rushed back but could not speak to him. He was heavily sedated. 'Chittagong' is for Ishan. So on October 12 when the film releases in India, there will be a countrywide celebration of Ishan and the zest with which he lived his life. It does not change the fact that two Indians lost a just battle against a US corporate behemoth in its own backyard but then we tried."

first published:September 03, 2012, 09:41 IST
last updated:September 03, 2012, 09:41 IST