Worker scalded while dismantling plumbing cannot sue company that was refurbishing dairy
David Apsey was burned over most of his torso and thighs while attempting to dismantle sterilizing lines at his employer, Dean Foods-Liberty Dairy. He sued Northwest Kent Mechanical, arguing that the company was negligent in the manner in which it reconstructed Liberty's plumbing and sterilizing system. Apsey was hurt when scalding water released from a line that Apsey believed had been drained and depressurized: his attorneys claimed that Northwest was responsible for negligence in selecting or advising over the use of ball valves installed in the line and for failing to incorporate a "pressure release system."
The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of Apsey's claim. It determined that Northwest did not owe him any duty to anticipate or respond to the inadequacy of the ball valves incorporated into the system, even though Northwest's supervisor admitted that he would not have used ball valves in this type of installation. The Court also held that even if Northwest's services amounted to the sale of a product to Apsey's employer, it was not responsible for failing to warn Liberty and Apsey of the dangers of the pressurized system because these dangers were "obvious." Apsey had mistakenly believed that lines were "locked out" and depressurized when he attempted to break the seal where he was injured: defective ball valves and the lack of a pressure monitoring system had contributed to his "mistake," however, the Court refused to hold the company that reconstructed the system accountable.