United States District Court, District of Columbia
LYLE G. RARDON, et al., Plaintiffs,
HOLLAND, LP, et al., Defendants.
F. HOGAN, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
action is brought by Lyle G. Rardon and his wife, Carolyn,
against Holland, LP (“Holland”), Justin L.
McFerrin, William T. Davis, and Plasser American Corp.
(“Plasser”).The suit arises out of an October 6,
2013 accident in a Metro tunnel between the Union Station and
Judiciary Square platforms while Washington Metropolitan Area
Transit Authority (“WMATA”) employees and Holland
contractors performed rail maintenance. Rardon was one such
WMATA employee and was injured following an explosion in the
tunnel. Extensive discovery has been conducted, and Plasser
has now moved for summary judgment.
spring of 2013, WMATA began a project to repair and replace
portions of the Washington D.C. Metro-rail system. To
complete the project, WMATA used three major pieces of
equipment: 1) a Prime Mover; 2) a Flash-Butt welding system;
and 3) a Pettibone Speed Swing. WMATA contracted with and
provided detailed specifications to Plasser, a
machine-building company, to construct the Prime Mover on its
behalf. Those specifications included, inter alia, a
requirement for Plasser to incorporate a hydraulic system
onto the machine. The purpose of the hydraulic system was to
power various WMATA tools. The specifications detailed that
Plasser was to include “a failsafe safety circuit to
shut off hydraulic tank flow in the event of catastrophic
failure, i.e. hose rupture . ” Plasser Material Facts
Not in Dispute ¶ 8. The specifications also explicitly
instructed Plasser to use “Twin Parker Parflex 518C-8
nonconductive SAE 1000R7 ½[inch]” hose for the
hydraulic system. Id. ¶ 7. WMATA's
specifications did not include instructions to place warning
labels on the machine.
constructed the Prime Mover according to WMATA's
specifications with only one change. During the building
process, Plasser asked WMATA whether it wanted the hydraulic
hose reels, specified to be constructed on the front of the
Prime Mover, to be relocated to the back. Email Chain [ECF
No. 45-1]. The inquiry stemmed from Plasser's
understanding that the welding would occur from the back of
the machine, and thus all ancillary functions, powered by the
hydraulic system, would likely occur behind the machine as
well. Id. WMATA agreed with the suggestion and
Plasser moved the reels to the right-rear of the machine.
separately contracted with Holland to provide the Fla s
h-Butt welding head to mount onto a boom attached to the
left-rear of the Prime Mover. Contract [ECF No. 37-14]. Under
the contract, Holland employees would perform the welding
services, including removing the hot sheered upset from the
rail. Id. WMATA employees would then take over,
completing the process by “profile” grinding or
“finish” grinding the weld so that the rail would
be seamless and smooth. Id. The industrial grinder
was to be hydraulically powered using the line attached to
the right-rear of the Prime Mover.
Night of the Accident
October 6, 2013, Holland's work crew included defendant
Justin McFerrin (supervisor), and defendant William Davis
(senior welder). WMATA's work crew included, among
others, the plaintiff, Lyle Rardon and profile grinder Jamaal
Haggie. The night's task was to remove and replace
sections of rail in the underground segment of the Red Line
between the Union Station and Judiciary Square stops.
began operation of the welding head. After the completion of
each weld, Davis removed the hot sheered upset material from
the rail and placed it across the third rail, between the
third rail and the tunnel wall, to cool. Davis Dep. 22:1-23:8
(Aug. 12, 2016) [ECF No. 37-18]. Haggie would then wait a few
minutes until the weld cooled sufficiently for him to grind
using the hydraulically powered grinder.
grinder was attached to the Prime Mover via the hydraulic
line located on the rear of the machine. Haggie ran the line
from the right-rear of the Prime Mover down the tunnel in
between the third rail and the tunnel wall so that the line
could not contact the hot weld. The Holland crew waited while
Haggie completed his job five separate times. Davis Dep.
20:25-21:6; Rardon Aff. ¶¶ 37, 43 [ECF No. 43-7].
six successive welds and five grinds, hot sheer upset
punctured Haggie's hydraulic line. The puncture in the
line caused the hydraulic fluid to aerosolize. The mist then
caught fire, creating a fireball and panic in the tunnel. As
tunnel workers reacted to the blaze, a rail that was
suspended by the Pettibone Speed Swing crane some distance
down the tunnel fell, injuring three people including Rardon.
asserts claims against Plasser for negligence, and strict
liability for design defect and failure to warn. Underlying
all of his claims is the assertion that the Prime Mover is
defective in that it should have been designed and
manufactured in a way that it would have: 1) protected the
hydraulic hose from heat and abrasion; 2) failed to a safe
condition if the hydraulic hose was punctured; and 3)