Facts & Allegations
In 2011, the West County Wastewater District (WCWD) contracted with Defendants Superior Steel Products, Inc. and DOE Installer to purchase, design, assemble, and install two new vertical storage tanks for WCWD’s Richmond plant. Defendant Harrington Industrial Plastics, LLC was additionally contracted in the development of fabrication, for the purpose of obtaining component parts for the tanks. Said tanks, which required several specially manufactured components in their construction, were specifically designed to hold concentrated sodium hypochlorite — a highly corrosive and hazardous liquid chemical.
On May 18, 2013, Plaintiff G.D.’s work assignment involved attaching a bypass line to one of the storage tanks, in order to drain the reserved sodium hypochlorite for a piping modification to take place. Synchronous with completion of his task, a specially manufactured male PVC adapter, with all attached component parts, failed and consequently sheared off of the storage vat. Sodium hypochlorite immediately sprayed from the broken component, exposing Plaintiff G.D. to the chemical and thereby causing 2nd and 3rd degree burns to his arms, legs, and groin area. WCWD provided Workers’ Compensation benefits to Plaintiff and asserted a lien of $1,099,599.06.
It was found that the modifications made to the specialty PVC adapter, which involved thinning the piece by 50% and removing approximately one half-inch of threads used to secure it in place, created a substantial product vulnerability. Said weakened component of the adapter, combined with a reasonable scenario in which the piece could be over-tightened, causing additional stress, caused the product to completely fail, giving way to the incident which occurred.
Plaintiff and other Defendants also alleged that the DOE Installer failed to properly install the PVC adapter per manufacturer instructions, causing even more stress in the already vulnerable product. Defendants further alleged that the Plaintiff failed to don proper Personal Protective Equipment, used incorrect tools while installing the bypass line, and employer negligence, stating that WCWD was responsible for the ultimate design of the tanks.
The matter settled for $2,260,000. WCWD also agreed to resolve its $1,099,599.06 lien for an adjusted amount of $225,000.00, which resulted in a total settlement of $3,134,599.06.