Blitz, based in Miami, Okla., and formerly the nation's largest manufacturer of plastic gas cans, is now in bankruptcy and out of business, largely because of the lawsuits and previous payouts to victims of alleged gas can explosions.
Plaintiff attorneys representing individuals burned in alleged gas can explosion incidents have filed at least 80 lawsuits against can manufacturers in the last decade or so. Some have also targeted retailers that sold the cans.
Wal-Mart tells NBC News it's been named as a defendant in 24 of the lawsuits.
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Those lawsuits allege that Blitz and Wal-Mart knowingly sold a defective product that could explode and produce catastrophic and sometimes fatal injuries, and refused to add a safety device, known as a flame arrester, to make the cans safer.
Blitz and other manufacturers have argued that any alleged injuries were caused by the users' own negligence and misuse, and that the cans were not at fault.
According to many scientific experts, a flame arrester – an inexpensive piece of mesh or a disk with holes – can reduce the likelihood of an explosion of a gas/air vapor mixture inside a gas can. They said the arrester can prevent a flame from entering the can by absorbing and dispersing its heat energy.
Parties to the lawsuits, including Blitz USA's estate, debtors, participating insurers and Walmart, have agreed to contribute $161 million to settle with many of the plaintiffs, while denying liability for the personal injury claims or that any defect in the cans is the cause of the incidents.
In depositions, Wal-Mart officials insisted that the manufacturer -- not Wal-Mart -- was responsible for the safety of the product. A former gas can buyer for Wal-Mart, Jacques DesHommes, said when questioned in 2010 for a lawsuit that even after being sued over alleged gas can explosions, the company did not conduct any tests or investigate whether explosions were actually occurring.
"Wal-Mart does not test the can, the products. The suppliers test the products," he said.
Diane Breneman, an attorney who has represented about 30 plaintiffs in gas can cases, claims Wal-Mart should have used its power years ago to demand these cans be made safer.
"If you repeatedly are sued in cases and the allegations are people are being severely burned or burning to death, you can't hide your head in the sand," Breneman said. "You're making money off of those cans. You have a responsibility at that point to investigate it, to do whatever is necessary, if you're going to continue to sell the product."
Wal-Mart spokesperson Brooke Buchanan said the retail chain was aware of the alleged explosion incidents through its involvement in lawsuits involving Blitz cans since 2005 (and one earlier product by another manufacturer in the early 1990s).
(Read more: Where to find the highest, and lowest, gas prices)
Buchanan acknowledged that Wal-Mart did not ask Blitz or any other can manufacturer to take any action to investigate the alleged explosion incidents, evaluate the safety of the cans or make changes to the can's design, such as adding a flame arrester.
Buchanan noted that such explosions are "very, very rare occurences" and said it's not proven that flame arresters will prevent them.
"We're waiting on industry experts," Buchanan said.
At NBC News' request, the Consumer Product Safety Commission analyzed available incident and injury databases and counted reports of at least 11 deaths and 1,200 emergency room visits that involved gas can explosions during the pouring of gasoline since 1998.
Both Breneman and Wal-Mart declined comment on the proposed settlement, which would cover those injured by gas can explosions between July 2007 and July 2012.
In a video statement provided in response to NBC News inquiries, Wal-Mart's Buchanan said, "These types of events are tragic and we're saddened that a small number of people have suffered injuries from the misuse of gas cans."