Michigan Supreme Court - Dryer Installers Had No Duty To Warn Of Uncapped Gas Line

In an August 16, 2012 opinion of the Michigan Supreme Court, it was decided that the dryer installers from Sears, Roebuck and Co. owed no duty to homeowners to warn them that they had an uncapped gas line in their laundry area. The Plaintiff's claim for injuries and property damage sustained when the home burned down was dismissed as to Defendant Sears.

In Hill v. Sears, Roebuck and Co, (Docket Nos. 143329, 143348 and 143633), the Plaintiffs purchased a home in 2003. The previous owners removed their gas dryer and took it with them when they vacated the home. They had turned off the gas to the line supplying their dryer but had not capped off the line. When the Plaintiffs moved into the home, they purchased an electric washer and dryer from Sears, Roebuck and Co. to replace the dryer removed by the previous owners. Installers from Sears placed the new washer and dryer in the same location where the previous owners' gas dryer had been, in front of the uncapped gas line, concealing it. The plaintiffs had no knowledge of the gas line or whether it was uncapped.

In 2007, the uncapped valve on the gas line was inadvertently opened spewing natural gas into the home. Later when one of the plaintiffs attempted to light a candle, the home exploded. Plaintiff's brought suit against the prior homeowners (who were not involved in the Supreme Court decision) and Sears, Roebuck and Co. for negligently installing the dryer, failing to discover, properly inspect and cap the gas line and failing to warn plaintiff's about the uncapped gas line.

The majority of the Supreme Court held that the dryer installers owed no duty to the Plaintiffs to cap the gas line and had no duty to tell the homeowners that they had an uncapped gas line behind their dryer. It reasoned that the installers' duty applied to the delivery and installation of the washer and dryer only which was completed in 12 minutes. There is no duty for the installers to protect the homeowners absent a special relationship such as with a doctor and patient.

Justices Kelly, Cavanagh and Hathaway disagreed with the opinion of the Court indicating that the installers owed a duty to warn of the dangers of the uncapped gas pipe before they placed the new dryer in front of the gas line concealing it. They also would have imposed a duty on the installers to take reasonable safeguards to protect the plaintiffs from harm.

If you or someone you love has been injured through the negligence of someone else, contact a personal injury attorney at Freedman & Freedman to discuss the facts of your case and whether you have a potential claim for monetary damages.

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