Plaintiff, a worker for the NYC Department of Transportation, was injured when while filling his work vehicle with gasoline, the fire suppression system at the gas station mistakenly went into alarm mode. For no apparent reason, a voluminous cloud of white powder which is meant to douse a fire, came pouring down from the gas station overhang, covering plaintiff and everything around him. Surprised and fearing he was inhaling a toxic substance, plaintiff staggered, bumped into a pole and fell to the ground. He injured his hip, which already had a preexisting arthritic condition, and was forced to undergo a total hip replacement surgery approximately two years after the accident. Plaintiff returned to work for over a year, but eventually had to stop for good.
The defendants, a very large gasoline company, and the installer/maintenance company of the fire extinguishing system claimed that regular maintenance was performed, and they did nothing wrong. The records supported this proposition. Defendants were basically alleging this type of incident can happen without negligence, and it had never happened before. While it intuitively seems that an incident like this must be the fault of the gas company or the maintenance company, plaintiff must prove they acted negligently.
Through diligent discovery, and with the use of experts, Bill Hepner was able to prove that the system was originally installed contrary to the recommendations of the manufacturer. Cliff Shapiro was then able to obtain a sizeable settlement within days of the commencement of trial.