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Novello v. Fluid Handling, LLC

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

September 9, 2014

RICHARD and VICKY NOVELLO, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
FLUID HANDLING, LLC and XYLEM, INC., Defendants.

Submitted: July 14, 2014

Gary S. Nitsche, Esquire, Michael B. Galbraith, Esquire (argued), Weik, Nitsche, Dougherty & Galbraith, Attorneys for Plaintiffs

Joel H. Fredricks, Esquire, David M. Fabian, Esquire (argued), Casarino Chirstman Shalk Ransom & Doss, Attorneys for Defendants

OPINION

Mary M. Johnston, J.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Richard Novello was injured on October 26, 2009, while working as a maintenance mechanic for DelStar Technologies, Inc. ("DelStar"). While Novello was attempting to change out an embossing roll on Delnet Line 1, a pump exploded. Novello was injured by debris from the explosion.

Defendant Fluid Handling, LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Xylem, Inc. (collectively "Defendants"). Fluid Handling's predecessor, ITT Corporation, sold an A-C Series 2000 end-suction centrifugal pump ("A-C Pump") and shipped the A-C Pump to Processflo, Inc. Processflo, which is not a party to this litigation, incorporated the A-C Pump into the Processflo Pump Assembly and sold it to DelStar. The A-C Pump was a component part of the Processflo Pump Assembly. DelStar installed the Processflo Pump Assembly into Delnet Line 1 at the Middletown, Delaware facility.

DelStar manufactures a proprietary plastic product. The relevant part of Delnet Line 1 is where a plastic sheet comes into contact with an embossing roll. The Processflo Pump Assembly pumped water in a closed loop through the embossing roll to cool it.

DelStar had a written lock-out, tag-out ("LOTO") procedure.[1] The purpose of the LOTO procedure is "to ensure that before any employee performs any servicing or maintenance on any machinery or equipment, where the unexpected energizing, start up or release of any type of energy could occur and cause injury, [the employee] shall render the machinery or equipment safe to work on by being locked out or tagged out."[2] The DelStar policy defines a Lockout/Tagout as "a method of isolating machines or equipment from energy sources."[3]

Novello testified at deposition that prior to his accident:

• He knew DelStar had a written lock-out, tag-out ("LOTO") procedure.[4]
• He knew how to LOTO the Processflo Pump Assembly, he was issued a lock and hasp, and had these items in his possession on the date of the accident.[5]
• He knew that it was dangerous to shut the supply or suction and discharge valves of the pump ...

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