Lawsuit over burst pipe at Wheeling Hospital dismissed

By John O'Brien | Jul 22, 2013

WHEELING – A lawsuit brought after a burst pipe gushed thousands of gallons of water into the radiology department at Wheeling Hospital has apparently been settled.

WHEELING – A lawsuit brought after a burst pipe gushed thousands of gallons of water into the radiology department at Wheeling Hospital has apparently been settled.

Wheeling Hospital sued Victaulic, Inc. and S.A. Comunale in January 2012 after the incident, alleging more than $1 million in damages. On July 1, U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp, of the Northern District of West Virginia, signed an order of dismissal.

Three days earlier, the parties filed their stipulation of dismissal.

Victaulic is a Pennsylvania business that designs, manufactures and sells couplings and connectors for pipes and water lines, while Comunale installs and connects sprinkler heads.

Comunale was subcontracted with to design, assemble and install a fire suppression sprinkler system during renovations to the radiology department that began in 2009, the hospital’s complaint says. Comunale used Victaulic’s couplings, it adds.

On March 10, 2010, the sprinkler system was activated and a leak occurred at the coupling of two sections of pipe held by a Victaulic coupling, the complaint says.

As pressure in the system increased, the coupling failed and the two sections disconnected, resulting in thousands of gallons of water being discharged from the ceiling of the radiology department for more than 20 minutes, the complaint says.

Wheeling says it incurred damages to its office space, equipment, records and the MRI room. It says it paid $1,204,029.92 in damages and cleanup.

The complaint says Victaulic had experienced problems with the type of coupling that failed on a number of occasions and was in the process of re-designing it.

“It is averred that Victaulic acknowledged and admitted that the inside lip design of the coupling is not sufficient enough to securely hold the flanges of the two pieces of pipe for which the coupling is used,” the complaint said.

The hospital made claims of product liability, breach of warranty and negligence.

Comunale had moved on June 13 to prevent emails from Stephen A. Comunale to his employees from being introduced into evidence.

The emails were sent June 5, 2012, and address supplemental training materials for employees after the failure of the coupling, the motion says.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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