Omega Flex wins in court
The makers of a corrugated stainless steel tubing product are celebrating a recent court victory.
After a lightning strike set fire to a High Ridge, Mo., house in April 2010, the homeowners’ insurance company, American Automobile Insurance Co. (AAIC), sued Exton, Pa.-based OmegaFlex. The suit alleged that lightning burned a hole through the OmegaFlex TracPipe corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) and caused a fire.
Court papers show that the plaintiff was looking for a $1 million payout, plus court costs. The jury didn’t buy it.
"Omega Flex proved that AAIC’s claims were false, and, in fact, the damage to the CSST pipe was caused after the fire had already started," according to the manufacturer’s statement in a release.
The jury found for Omega Flex on all counts and awarded AAIC nothing in damages.
The case appeared in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Several other similar cases have been brought against Omega Flex, including by plaintiffs Allstate and Home Owners Insurance Co., leading to settlements or dismissal. The cases bring a familiar complaint: that lightning burnt a hole in the CSST and ignited the natural gas that ran through it.
Omega Flex says it’s prepared to fight for the reputation of its product.
"After years of use by millions of homeowners, the evidence proves TracPipe CSST is not uniquely susceptible to damage from a lightning current that may enter a home," the company stated. "In fact, CSST has a superior overall safety record as compared with other appliances or equipment. OmegaFlex will continue to vigorously defend itself against frivolous claims about the safety of its products."
Back in play: Innocent Sellers Act
Representative Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) earned the praise of lumber dealers by reintroducing the "Innocent Sellers Fairness Act."
Here’s how National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) officials called it:
"NLBMDA applauds Representative Farenthold for his effort to bring balance to our legal system by recognizing that business owners that only sell products, and are not involved in the manufacturing process, should not be held liable for defects that they did not create."
— Chuck Bankston, NLBMDA chairman and president of Bankston Lumber in Barnesville, Ga.
"No amount of care can free a seller from disproportionate product liability, and plaintiffs’ lawyers know this. They routinely sue anyone in the chain of distribution of a product, often forcing settlements out of otherwise innocent merchants. These abusive product liability cases are part of a growing litigation burden on our nation’s small businesses and our economy. … We urge Congress to act swiftly on H.R. 2746."
— Michael O’Brien, NLBMDA president and CEO
Remembering Frank Denny
Credited for nurturing the warehouse home center business during its emergence in the 1980s, Frank Denny died last month. He was 79.
Denny was president of W.R. Grace and Co.’s home center division. When Kmart bought Home Centers of America in 1984, Denny was tapped to oversee its expansion under the brand name Builders Square.
The pages of National Home Center News (the forerunner of HCN) from the 1980s provide ample evidence of Denny’s influence on the industry. In a Dec. 7, 1981, NHCN editorial, Denny was described as an influential executive who worked at a torrid pace. "What Denny has developed for Grace is a modern, clean, fairly priced, basically self-service merchandising concept for the novice and not-so-novice DIYer," wrote NHCN.
A 1987 article about Denny’s leadership at Builders Square included an illustration portraying the veteran executive as a circus performer attempting to tame the industry’s fastest-growing home center chain. The article’s headline: "Taming the Beast."
Denny graduated from Rutgers University in New Jersey, and in 1958 moved to California, where he bought close-out lots of lumber for a discount outlet called Angels. Three years later, he became a partner of the company.
He later helped convert an El Paso lumberyard into what became the Cashway Home Improvement chain.
A message from Denny’s family said he died July 2, "after the usual tough fight he was known for throughout his career."