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Gas Tank Overflows - Cleanup

This morning, after telling my small son how flammable gasoline is, the nozzle at the gas station didn’t shut off and my tank overflowed. I took the car to the carwash (the works, including underbody spray), then hosed down the exterior of the gas tank area and underbody. Is it safe to drive the car? I have visions of someone throwing a cigarette out of their vehicle and my family and I going up in flames!

Gasoline evaporates pretty quickly. There should be no danger. You might want to check the area to see if the paint needs a fresh coat of wax.

You’ve already driven the car. Nothing happened, right?

Yes, it’s safe to drive the car. Between the car wash and the high evaporation rate, whatever gas was spilled is now gone.

You might consider waxing the area where the gasoline spilled on the paint.

Yes, it’s safe. Gasoline is highly aeromatic, it evaporates quickly and easily.

By the way, the same thing happened to me when my Scion was brand new. Gas everywhere. And when I went in to tell the counter girl she started chewing me out for allowing a gas spill. Needless to say, she rapidly became educated on the federal requirement for a properly working automatic shutoff as well as the gas station attendent’s responsibilities in a hazardous spill.

I doesn’t hurt the car. And the dent in your sense of security rapidlly disappears too. It can be used to teach your son the importance of not leaving the pump unattended, a real-life example that “stuff happens”.

Hello, I know you posted this a long time ago but this just happened to me tonight and the gas station attendant said I was liable. What rules/refs did you quote to them? I never left my car I was washing the windows and was wondering why it was taking so long to pump,the pump never shut off when I went around the car it was pumping like crazy out of the tank and when I pulled the nozzle out it kept pumping it would not shut off for about 30 seconds. I went inside the store to advise them of this and they said it was my fault and liability. They said it would be a couple thousand which I don’t understand they called the fire dept and they declined to come. The attendant said it would take him an hour to clean up which again I don’t understand why because he said they sprinkle this stuff on it and sweep it up. Hazmat cones by within 48 hours and they will tell me how much I owe. I tried to tell, them the pump wouldn’t shut off but they kept saying I left it unattended while I washed my windows. Any advice? Thank you in advance.

Other than the facts in this old thread and your problem are different you have a legal problem and legal advice over the internet is worthless.

Just the standard advice my attorney father used to give me and everyone else who found themselves under threat of legal action:

3 rules you need to follow from here on out: 1: Shut up. 2: Shut up. 3: Shut the @#$#@ up.

Everything you say to the attendant, the manager, the owner, or their lawyer can be used against you. Just sit tight and see if they actually bring an action against you. If they don’t (which they probably won’t because unlike the service attendant, the owner probably isn’t a moron) then great. If they do, get a lawyer.

Personally, were it me, if they sent me a letter advising me they were suing me I’d copy the greatest legal letter of all time in my response: “Please find attached a letter I received advising me of your intent to file suit because your gas pump failed to shut off as designed. I thought you should be aware that some jackass is signing your name to stupid letters. Very truly yours /s/”

Yes. Keep the letter and ignore it.

The exact same thing happened to me when my car was brand new. The pump failed to shut off, gas flowed down my new paint job, and the attendant, a young kid, went nuts. I pointed out to the attendant that they have a regulatory obligation to ensure that this critical safety system was in proper operating service, and if it fails they are legally liable for any collateral damages caused. Whenever a business has statutory mandates that they must comply with, they are automatically responsible for the results of the noncompliance unless they can prove in a court of law that the system was in-fact operating properly and you caused its failure. This is an arena of civil liability, not a criminal issue, and they’re automatically assumed to be at fault unless they can prove otherwise.

Regarding the cleanup, it goes beyond just throwing some “kitty litter” on the spill. It needs to be then followed up by a licensed remediation company specializing in HAZMAT spills and the pump needs to be repaired and recertified before it can be used again. But that is all the problem of the station owner, not your responsibility.

Even though the thread is old, since it’s been reopened I felt it important to make these points.

It seems to me that there are at least two possibilities: The gas station owner could go after the pump manufacturer for the defect or the attendant could be liable. Isn’t it his job to monitor was goes on at the pumps?

I don’t see how you can be liable since you could have been injured by the malfunction if you were standing there when the gas spewed out.

The attendant is very likely not the owner of the gas station or a lawyer so I wouldn’t care what he says.

I would just avoid communicating with them and wait and see if they try to go after you. If so, get a lawyer’s advice.

Well the good news is that no one has exploded. I’ve had the triggers stick before but never seen the nozzel continue to deliver fuel after the trigger was released. I guess that’s why they have the little stickers telling you to stay by your car. Some nice person left the sticking trigger for me once so when I turned the pump on it sprayed all over my car so now I always check to make sure its off and monitor it when re-fueling. I guess I agree with Shadowfax to simply shut up in these situations. You were dealing with an $8 an hour clerk so who knows what they will do.