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Defective Machine Causes Fire at Lumber Yard

Tri-Service

March, 1999

Products Liability: Defective Machine at Lumber Yard
Settlement: $4,647,500

Plaintiff Attorneys:
for Gandy: Browne Greene, Brian J. Panish & Geoffrey S. Wells
(Greene, Broillet, Taylor, Wheeler & Panish), Santa Monica (310) 576-1200
for Estrada/Reyes: Thomas Weaver & Douglas Applegate, Tustin (714) 838-9955

Defendant Attorneys:
for R.W.: J. Dean Rice (Brownwood, Rice & Zurawski), Orange (714) 971-1422
for Williams: Leonard D. Venger & Jay Miller
(Manatt, Phelps & Phillips), Los Angeles (310) 312-4000
for Imperial: Tom V. K. Mei
(Murchison & Cumming), Los Angeles (213) 623-7400
for Praxair Scott T. Pratt & Paul Schumacher
(Kessal, Young & Logan), Long Beach (562) 436-2000
for Bohler: Theodore Howard & Edward Dollar
(Howard, Moss, Loveder, Strickroth & Walker), Santa Ana (714) 542-6300
for Action: Mark Kitabayashi
(Breidenbach, Buckley & Huchting), Los Angeles (213) 624-3431

Court: Norwalk
Judge: Not Assigned
Date: 12,98

Insurance Co.: None for Action, San Diego Insurance and Golden Eagle for R.W., Zurich American for
Williams, Alliance for Praxair and Bohler, and Hartford for Imperial

Case: Orbro Gandy, Jr., Mainor Estrada, and Antonio Reyes v. R. W. Manufacturing, Williams
Patent Crusher, Imperial Manufacturing, Action Equipment, Bolder UTP Welding, USA,
Inc., and Praxair Distribution, Inc.
VC 022 669

Facts:
9/29/95: Plaintiffs Gandy, a 47-year-oldripsaw foreman, Estrada, a 30-year-old laborer, and Reyes, a 28-year-old laborer, were injured in an explosion while they were working at the Saroyan Lumber Plant in Los Angeles. Although the cause of the explosion was disputed, it was believed that Saroyan Lumber was using a machine known as a “hog” for crushing and pulverizing wood scrap. The hog utilized a series of metal hammers to crush and pulverize the wood into sawdust. The hammers used in the process would become worn out and required either replacement or refacing. The hammers were refaced by Defendant Imperial Manufacturing. Within several hours of the refaced hammers’ being put back into operation, a fire started in the dust-collection system. Upon investigation of the hammers, it was determined that they were severely chipped. It is believed that the chipped hammers sucked metal into the dust-collection system, causing smoldering in the sawdust. One of the Saroyan Lumber Yard workers opened the dust-collection system while searching for the source of smoke in the mill. Once the dust-collection system doors were opened, oxygen was introduced into the smoldering sawdust, causing the explosion.

Injuries: Gandy: 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns over 90% of his body. Reyes: 2nd-and 3rd-degree burns over 20% of his body. Estrada 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns over 15% of his body. Treatment: Debridement and skin grafting. Residuals: Permanent disfiguring scars.
Medical Costs: $1,200,000 past, $500,003 future
$50,0(X) past, $500,000 future

Contentions:
Plaintiff claimed Williams Patent Crusher & Pulverizer defectively designed the machine. It gave insufficient direction concerning the refacing of the hammers. Bohler’s sales representative recommended the wrong hardness of rod for the refacing. The type of rod used was too hard and chipped during the use of the hog. Imperial Manufacturing improperly refaced the hammers and the welder was inexperienced and had never performed this type of build-up previously. The welder used the wrong temperature to preheat the hammers, assuming that the proper preheating instruction was in Fahrenheit rather than Celsius degrees. R.W. Manufacturing’s dust-collection system was defectively designed and had an inadequate spark-detection system. Action Equipment’s conveyor was defectively designed. It failed to have a magnetic metal detector to prevent scraps of metal from getting inside the hog machine.

Defendants argued that they were not negligent. The product was not defective.

Negotiations:
1st Offer: None
1st Demand: $1,000,000 to Williams, $1,000,000 to R.W., $2,000,000 to Imperial, $100,000 to Action, and
$5,000,000 to Bohler

Settlement:
$4,647,500 total; $3,718.00 to Gandy and the remaining $929,500 to Reyes and Estrada
$1,000,000 from R.W., $1,000,000 from Williams, $1,600,000 from imperial, $972,500 from Bolder, and
$75,000 from Action

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