A civil jury returned a verdict last month against a manufacturer that claimed a contractor was to blame for a plant explosion that killed three workers and injured 48. The jury ruled that Falk Corp. bears nearly all responsibility for the December 2006 explosion at its Milwaukee plant, which shook the city and did $72 million in damage. An investigation determined two leaks in a propane pipe allowed the gas to accumulate and ignite in a large storage building on Falk’s 50-acre campus. Falk and its insurance company sued J.M. Brennan, the mechanical contractor that installed the pipe in 1988, for $68 million. Falk contended that Brennan installed the pipe improperly. But Brennan’s lawyers claimed Falk didn’t maintain the pipe properly and had skipped a $1,000-a-year test of an anticorrosion system that could have detected problems before the explosion.
The Milwaukee County jury assigned 95% of the responsibility for the accident to Falk and only 5% to Brennan. That means Brennan won’t have to pay damages. Rexnord Industries, Falk’s parent company, agreed last year to pay $40,000 in fines from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and correct violations of safety regulations. Brennan agreed to pay OSHA $5,600 in fines for two safety code violations.
Source: Insurance Journal
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