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Court: Installers Had No Duty To Warn Of Hazard That Led To Explosion

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LANSING (WWJ/AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that the installers of an electric dryer had no legal duty to warn a metro Detroit woman about an uncapped gas line that eventually caused her house to explode.

The court’s 4-3 ruling was released Thursday.

Marcy Hill bought the home in Macomb County’s Clinton Township in 2003 and said she wasn’t aware the previous owners didn’t cap a gas line to a dryer they took with them. Her lawsuit claims that installers who put in an electric one didn’t cap the line or warn her about it, and she said they hid it with the new dryer.

The home exploded in 2007 after Hill inadvertently opened a valve in her furnace room that supplied the uncapped line. An explosion ignited when someone in the house tried to light a candle. Hill, her daughter and her son were able to escape the house but sustained serious burns.

Hill and her daughter later said they could remember smelling gas throughout the day prior to the explosion, but didn’t do more than open the home’s windows despite having knowledge that the smell of gas “was dangerous” and that they should “get out of the house.”

Justice Mary Beth Kelly said the installers had a “limited” relationship with the family and “were under no obligation to warn of or cap the gas line or undertake any action relative to the gas line, but only had an obligation to use due care when installing the appliances,” MLive.com reported.

Kelly also said Hill had “constructive notice of the gas line’s existence because it was visible for a few weeks before the dryer was installed in front of it.” Hill reportedly said she thought the pipe was a water line.

“The hazard associated with the uncapped gas line was present when the installers entered the premises and when they left; the danger posed by the uncapped gas line was the same before and after the installation,” Kelly wrote.

The Supreme Court overturned decisions by a Macomb County judge and the Court of Appeals — which refused to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it was the installer’s duty not to make the uncapped gas line more dangerous by “concealing” it with the electric dryer.

TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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