Pasadena family files lawsuit over electric golf cart fire

Family claims pair of carts sparked fire that destroyed their home in Aug. 2012

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

PASADENA, Texas - A Pasadena family has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming a pair of electric golf carts sparked the fire that destroyed their home in Aug. 2012.

"The fire went so fast," said Mark Zinante.

Zinante said he returned home from working a night shift at the Shell plant and was in his kitchen we he heard a "popping" sound coming from the garage.

"When I opened up the back door, smoke immediately came into the house and set off the smoke detector in the kitchen," said Zinante.

Zinante said the flames quickly spread to the home as he yelled to his wife and sons who were still asleep.

"We ran out with the clothes on. We didn't have anything," said Zinante's wife, Annette. "I had pajamas on. I was barefooted."

As the family ran out of the house, Zinante said he saw what was burning in his garage.

"I could see both golf carts in flames," said Zinante.

Zinante said he was referring to the two Zone Electric carts that were plugged into the wall and charging at the time the fire started. The Zinantes said they have never played golf a day in their lives, but bought the carts for recreational purposes and to shuttle their sons to and from near-by school events.

The Zinantes also bought the electric carts during a time the federal government was offering tax credits to people who purchased electric vehicles.

Online ads posted by the company during that period told consumers they could get a "free" cart. The ads stated the carts were being sold for $6,496.53, but that consumers could receive the exact same amount in federal tax credit after purchasing the cart.

"Based on our investigation, we believe that these golf carts were cheaply made golf carts in China," said Houston attorney Chris Leavitt. "We believe they were hastily produced to take advantage of expiring tax credits."

Leavitt said he estimates 17,000 of the electric carts were sold. Leavitt said he believes the carts were sold even before the company finished writing the owners manual.

Zinante said shortly after the fire he started doing internet research on the carts and found the company posted a warning that reads, "Use of improper extension cords can cause dangerous electrical fires."

However, Zinante said that warning does not apply to his family's situation because he only used the manufacturer's equipment to charge the carts.

"I was using their equipment plugged directly into the wall," said Zinante. "We were doing everything the manufacturer instructed us to do."

A report from the Pasadena Fire Marshal's Office stated the fire that destroyed the Zinantes' home started in the garage and was "probable electric equipment malfunction." The report ruled the fire accidental but did not specifically mention the carts.

Calls to the attorney representing the company were not returned.

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