A civil jury on Friday, October 3 ruled against a manufacturer that claimed a contractor was to blame for a plant explosion that killed three workers and injured 48.
The jury said 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 said Brennan installed the pipe improperly.
But Brennan’s lawyers said Falk didn’t maintain the pipe properly and 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 percent of the responsibility for the accident to Falk and only 5 percent to Brennan. That means Brennan won’t have to pay damages.
A spokesman for Rexnord Industries, Falk’s parent company, issued a statement, saying Falk was disappointed but respected the jury’s decision.
“We will look at today’s decision further to determine if additional legal action is warranted,” spokesman Evan Zeppos added.
Rexnord 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.
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
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