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January 5, 2019

Our Industrial Accident Lawyers proved Bioler Malfunction Caused by Negligent Installation and Maintenance

By Michael H. Joseph

Our Westchester Industrial Accident  lawyers got past a motion to dismiss in a case where our client suffered personal injuries including thermal and chemical burns. The Rockland Supreme Court agrees that our workplace accident lawyers established enough evidence that Defendants were negligent and careless in the installation/addition of new boilers to the subject premises and negligent in failing to maintain, inspect, repair, and service the boiler and heating system in a safe manner.

Our client a maintenance work Elser sustained these injuries when he was exposed to hot water and chemicals from the boiler system’s expansion tank when the pressure relief valve blew, discharging hot water and chemicals into the sub-basement, which Plaintiff was charged with draining as well as getting the heat back on in the facility.

In 2000, a plumbing contractor removed the existing boilers and installed two new boilers, as well as the associated piping, pumps, and electrical connections. After the installation of the boilers, the Defendant continued to perform preventive service and maintenance on the boilers, for many years.  In June 2010, A maintenance company entered into a three years’ service contract for The boilers which also required the Defendant to service the boiler’s associated parts and components.

Our Industrial accident lawyers hired a mechanical engineering expert and determined that the plumbing contractor removed a one million BTU boiler and upgraded the system to a two million BTU boiler thereby doubling the capacity without simultaneously upgrading the expansion tanks. Our workplace accident attorney established that the negligent installation resulted in an over pressurized boiler system which caused the pressure relief valve to repeatedly blow, and release water that was about 180 degrees. One the day of the accident the hot water was discharged to the floor which melted the paint and clogged the drains thereby resulting in a flooded condition of hot water, chemicals  and whatever substances were in the basement. The Rockland Supreme Court agreed that both defendants could be held liable for negligence in failing to hard pipe the water to a floor drain

The contractor defendant tried to escape liability by arguing that its maintenance contract was terminated more than a year prior to Plaintiff’s accident.  Defendalso moves for summary judgement and argues that as an independent contractor, it is not liable to plaintiff.  Defendant No. 1 moves for summary judgement and dismissal of the complaint and all cross claims.  Defendant No. 2, who went out of business in 2015, had a preventive maintenance contract with the Plaintiff in 2013, although its principal testified that it began doing work at the facility a couple of years before the accident.  But our attorneys were able to show that they were nevertheless negligent in the installation an d despite the cancellation of the contract continued to service the boiler.

Both defendants also tried to escape liability by arguing the Espinal doctrine which holds that an independent contractor cannot be held liable to an injured Plaintiff except for three exceptions. Our Industrial accident personal injury lawyers proved that the plumbing contractor created an instrument of harm by creating an overly pressurized boiler system, which is an exception to the Espinal Doctrine. Our lawyers also proved that the complete delegation exception applied because both companies exclusively maintained the plumbing Systems.  With respect to a third-party contractor, the general rule is that such contract does not give rise to a duty, on the part of the contractor, to use reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm to residents or visitors to the property.  However, there are three exceptions to that general: (1) where the contractor failed to use reasonable care in the performance of its duties , thereby launching a force or instrument of harm; (2) where the plaintiff detrimentally relies upon the continued performance of the contractor’s duties; or (3) where the contractor displaced the property owner’s duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. With regard to the first exception, a contractor may be liable for an affirmative act of negligence which results in the creation of an instrument of harm. The Court held that the Plaintiff produced enough proof that the plumbing contractor launched an instrument of harm as a result of its installation of the boiler system and that there was detrimental reliance with respect to the maintenance of the boilers.  Also, the Court did not find the installation of the boilers in 2000 to be too remote in time with respect to the accident, particularly where as here, there appears to have been continued maintenance performed by the Defendant up to the accident.

Our White Plains Industrial Accident lawyers are committed to protecting the rights of injured workers in Westchester and Rockland.

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