Issues of Liability

Clearly identifying mid-level ethanol blends as “For Flex-Fuel Vehicles Only” and dispensing them from a separate “flex-fuel” hose are best practices to follow. We recommend you speak with your legal counsel on issues of liability.

Proper labeling of pumps – clearly identifying products as “For Flex-Fuel Vehicles Only” – should insulate a marketer from customer claims of misfueling non-flex-fuel vehicles with ethanol blends higher than 10%. While nothing can stop a person from filing a claim, properly labeled and clearly differentiated products should mimimize concerns that such a claim would be successful. Much like a person who accidently puts diesel in a gasoline vehicle and vice versa, easily identified differences between products will protect the marketer.

In addition, “flex-fuels” and “standard fuels” should be dispensed from separate hoses. If all products are dispensed from a common hose, it is possible for a residual amount of a higher ethanol blend to be dispensed into the fuel tank or container of a customer who selected gasoline or E10 for purchase. While a hose full of E85 is unlikely to cause any serious problems, even in a small engine designed for gas and E10, having separate hoses for flex-fuels and standard fuels should minimize the possibility of a successful claim.

Some Departments of Weights and Measures on the state level have indicated that they will prevent marketers from selling mid-level blends until such time as there is an ASTM specification for them. These departments need to be reminded that the product marketed as E30, for example, is actually a blend of E85 and Unleaded (or E10) – both of which have ASTM specifications that can be tested by pulling samples from the respective products tanks. E30 is no more a separate product than the fuel that is created when #1 and #2 diesel fuel are blended together. There is no ASTM specification for #11/2 diesel fuel, and the same rules should apply for gas/ethanol blends. With a blender pump, there is no E20, E30, or E40 on site – the product is created by the customer at the point of purchase.

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