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ARTICLE ID 14380

$________ Plaintiffs claim defendant negligent in installing defective fuel supply line - Fuel oil spills into plaintiffs' home - Damage to home and cost of toxic clean up claimed.

Middlesex County, Massachusetts

In December of ________, a fuel oil spill occurred in the plaintiff’s home. The spill was extensive, involving approximately ________ gallons of fuel oil, and the plaintiffs contended that it caused substantial damage to the home. The plaintiff’s also contended that the cleanup of the spill was quite costly. The cause of the leak was a faulty fuel supply line to the plaintiffs’ furnace. As the fuel line had been installed fairly recently (less than three years prior to the spill) the plaintiffs maintained that there must have been a defect in the supply line which caused the spill into their home. The defendant company which installed the fuel supply line claimed that the plaintiffs had purchased "sour" fuel from their home heating oil provider and that elements in the "sour" fuel caused corrosion in the fuel supply line, leading to its failure. A third party in this case, the fuel oil supply company was released upon a $________ settlement with the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs presented an expert metallurgist who testified as to the composition of the fuel supply line. The plaintiffs’ expert stated that it would be unlikely that contaminated oil would cause corrosion to the copper tubing fuel line. He contended that there was a kink in the fuel line which accelerated corrosion of the copper tubing and ultimately led to a perforation of the line, allowing fuel oil to flood into the plaintiffs’ basement. The plaintiffs also presented as physical evidence the actual supply line as well as pictures of the section of the line that had corroded.

The defense asserted that fuel oil can sometimes be contaminated with caustic agents and thus, can cause unusually rapid corrosion of fuel lines. The defense put forth that "sour" oil purchased from the plaintiffs’ fuel supplier was the origin of the deterioration of the copper tubing which caused the spill to occur. To support this contention, the defendant presented an expert who testified that he did not believe the fuel line to be kinked. He deemed the cause of the damage to the fuel line to be contaminated fuel.

The defense also qualified an employee of the defendant company as an expert, based on his 22 years of experience in the field of supply line installation. The defense expert testified that he p 7 3 believed bad fuel oil to be the cause of the corrosion of the supply line. Upon cross-examination, however, the defendant’s expert stated that on several occasions, he had disclosed to the plaintiffs that he believed that the defendant company was at fault for the spill. The defense expert countered that he was only guessing when he suggested to the plaintiffs that his company might be at fault.

The defendant brought into the cause of action the pollution remediation company. The defendant claimed that poor cleanup of the oil spill exacerbated the plaintiffs’ loss. The claim against the cleanup company was dismissed during the course of the trial.

The jury concluded, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant was ________% liable for the necessary costs of cleanup of the fuel oil which damaged the plaintiffs’ home. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $________ for the costs of cleanup and miscellaneous expenses related to the spill.

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