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REGIS J. BINDER AND LILIAN B. BINDER v. JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL CORPORATION (01/22/87)

filed: January 22, 1987.

REGIS J. BINDER AND LILIAN B. BINDER
v.
JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL CORPORATION, A CORPORATION, AND WASHINGTON TOOL & MACHINE COMPANY V. WEAN UNITED, INC. APPEAL OF JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL CORPORATION, A CORPORATION



Appeal from the Judgment entered December 5, 1985 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil No. GD 81-19896, Issue No. 117367.

COUNSEL

Kathleen S. McAllister, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Paul E. Moses, Pittsburgh, for appellees.

Brosky, Kelly and Roberts, JJ.

Author: Roberts

[ 360 Pa. Super. Page 393]

Generally, Restatement of Torts, 2nd (1965), § 388 imposes liability upon suppliers of chattel for negligent failure to disclose the chattel's dangerous conditions. This appeal, involving injuries to an employee of the supplier's bailee caused by the explosion of a cast-iron roll, presents questions regarding the existence and scope of the duty to disclose under § 388. The most significant of these questions is whether the supplier meets its standard of care by informing the bailee of the chattel's general characteristics, but not providing specific information or warnings regarding the chattel's alleged dangerous propensities. We also review several allegations of trial error, and conclude that there is no basis to disturb the jury's verdict. Accordingly, the judgment is affirmed.

I.

The appellee, Binder, an employee of Washington Tool & Machine Co. ("Washington"), brought this action for negligence against Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. ("J & L"), after J & L's cast-iron roll exploded, injuring Binder. J & L joined Washington and Wean United, Inc., the manufacturer of the roll, but agreed to dismiss them before the end of trial.*fn1 At the close of the evidence J & L requested several

[ 360 Pa. Super. Page 394]

    points for charge, including an instruction relating to Binder's contributory negligence. The trial court refused this instruction and the jury returned a verdict of $420,000 for Binder and $80,000 for his wife. Pursuant to Pa.R.Civ.P., Rule 238, the trial court added $187,500 in delay damages.*fn2

Viewed in the light most favorable to Binder as verdict winner, Fannin v. Cratty, 331 Pa. Super. 326, 331, 480 A.2d 1056 (1984), the evidence established that Washington had agreed to replace a shaft which had broken from the center of the roll.*fn3 To accomplish the replacement, J & L's purchase order specifically requested Washington to remove the remainder of the original shaft, to bore a hole through the center of the roll, and to "shrink fit" the roll onto the new shaft. The process of "shrink fitting," which Washington had performed for J & L for about ten years, involves expanding the roll with heat, so that the hole through the center could be widened and the new shaft installed. When the heated metal cools, the roll contracts or "shrinks" to fit the new shaft. Washington customarily applied heat with propane and oxygen fueled torches. Its fitters would constantly move the flame over the roll's surface to uniformly distribute the heat. J & L's representatives visited Washington's plant frequently and knew that Washington employed this method almost exclusively.

[ 360 Pa. Super. Page 395]

After the removal of the original shaft and the boring of the hole, Binder and another employee were assigned to shrink fit the roll. With the help of a crane, Binder stood the roll on a table and began to heat it with the propane and oxygen fueled torches. Shortly after Binder began the heating process, he was joined by the other employee. After about an hour, they stopped to allow the foreman to measure the hole in the center of the roll. No expansion had yet occurred. Within minutes after they resumed heating, the roll exploded in two, crushing Binder's leg and causing burns, bruises and lacerations. The injury also caused Binder to miss nearly a year and a half of work, and within two months of his return, he suffered a heart attack which a physician related to the stress induced by his long absence.

The evidence further demonstrated that the roll had a carbon content of 3.41%. This relatively high percentage of carbon is the characteristic distinguishing cast-iron from steel, which typically possesses less than 1% carbon. While the greater carbon makes cast-iron less ductile, or flexible, than the steel it is used to mold, it also makes it brittle when heat or other pressure is applied. Also, the outer surface of the roll was chill casted, which means that it was cooled more rapidly than the inside of the roll. This chillcasting technique makes the surface even harder, but puts it in a state of compression, pushing towards the center of the roll. The inside of the roll cools more slowly and is cast in a state of tension, pulling away from the center of the roll. The plaintiff's expert testified that the combination of these conflicting stresses and the high carbon content made the cast-iron likely to split when heated.

Along with its purchase order, J & L provided Washington with a copy of the purchase order to the manufacturer, which included a notation that the roll was to be made of cast-iron. An employee of Washington's main office converted the former purchase order to an in-house shop order. The shop order was then transmitted, ...


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