NYCAL Court Rules a Plumber Dismantling a Sectional Boiler Was a Foreseeable User of That Product

Posted by

In this NYCAL mesothelioma case, the plaintiff worked as a plumber from 1984-1996, disassembling plumbing equipment including Cleaver Brooks cast iron sectional boilers.  Cleaver Brooks initially moved for summary judgment on the grounds that a plumber such as the plaintiff was not a foreseeable user of the product, which the lower court denied. The Appellate Division then issued a decision in Hockler v William Powell Co., 129 AD3d 463 (1st Dept. 2015), holding that a salvaging and dismantling valve was not a foreseeable use of that product, which prompted Cleaver Brooks to renew its summary judgment motion. NYCAL denied Cleaver Brooks’ motion again, distinguishing the Hockler decision: “Mr. Smith’s work was not so analogous to Mr. Hockler’s work as to make the Hockler decision controlling here. Mr. Smith was a trained plumber, not a salvager. Unlike Mr. Hockler, who apparently had no technical knowledge of the products and equipment he demolished and salvaged, Mr. Smith spent a career working with boilers and their associated parts and components.”

The court also focused on the fact that Cleaver Brooks boilers had a short lifespan and that they would be dismantled by skilled workers: “…there can be no question that CB knew its boilers could have a lifespan of as little as two years, that its boilers would be dismantled before new ones were installed, and that asbestos would likely be disturbed during the removal process if its boilers were removed in more than one piece. It goes without saying that this work would have to be performed by individuals with experience and skill, not junk salvagers.”

Read the full decision here.