Appeals Court Affirms Summary Judgment for Glass Companies in Exposure Suit

A California appellate court has ruled in favor of PRL Aluminum, PRL Glass Systems, GlasPro, Glasswerks and Pilkington (the defendants) in a case focused on whether exposure to the companies’ products caused a glazier’s lung disease.

Plaintiffs in De Molina v. Glasswerks LA are the family of Oscar Molina, who worked at Lucky’s Glass from 1993 to 2014. They filed a product liability action in 2016 alleging that Molina died of lung disease resulting from inhalation of glass and metal particles arising from his work as a glazier. According to the appellate court opinion, the plaintiffs sued companies that supplied glass and mirrors to Lucky’s Glass during the time Molina worked there, alleging that the cutting, grinding or sanding of their products released aerosolized particles that Molina inhaled, causing his illness and death.

The defendants filed motions for summary judgment, asserting that products they supplied were all finished products, therefore they would not have been manipulated in any way that would have released airborne glass and metal particles. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County granted the motions, which plaintiffs appealed.

PRL Glass Systems, GlasPro and Pilkington declined to comment on the ruling. Glasswerks had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

Appeals Court: Glass Damage Not Covered by Insurance

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has affirmed a Texas district court’s judgment that Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company is not required to cover a general contractor’s claim for damage to the Energy Center 5 glass façade, a skyscraper in Houston. Balfour Beatty Construction and Milestone Metals Inc. are the plaintiffs and appellants in the case.

According to the opinion, Balfour was hired by TCH Energy Corridor Venture (Trammell Crow) as the project’s general contractor. Balfour subcontracted with Milestone for the erection of structural steel, stairs and ornamental steel. Trammell Crow obtained an insurance policy from Liberty effective from July 10, 2014 to August 10, 2016.

On July 12, 2016, Milestone learned that slag from welding that occurred in October 2015 had fallen down the side of the building, damaging glass windows on lower floors. The opinion states that Trammell Crow, Balfour and Milestone then tendered a claim to Liberty under the policy. However, Liberty denied coverage and explained that the loss was excluded.

The insurance policy states that Liberty covers risks of direct physical loss or damage unless the loss is limited or caused by a peril that is excluded. The district court ruled that the exception’s language suggests that there must be two loss events that are different in kind in order to reinstate coverage—one initial loss event (an excluded peril) followed by a separate covered peril, with only the latter peril subject to coverage.

Caulking Company Declared Liable for False Advertising and Unfair Competition

A judge for the U.S. District Court of New Jersey has ruled that Albion Engineering is liable for false advertising and unfair competition due to wrongly labeling its manual caulk dispensing guns as made in America. The claim was brought forth by Albion’s competitor, Newborn Bros. Co. Inc., under the Lanham Act in May 2012.

According to the court opinion, Newborn’s founder, Peter Chang, began producing caulking guns in his factory in Korea in the early 1970s before creating Newborn to distribute those guns in the U.S. It began making caulking guns for the industrial/professional market in 1990 to compete with Albion’s products, but Albert Lee, Chang’s son-in-law and the current president, said the company experienced limited success and began to investigate the cause.

“Lee testified that a salesperson told him that while the salesman believed Newborn created a superior and less expensive product, Newborn had trouble competing in the industrial/professional market because Newborn’s competitor, Albion, manufactured its products in America,” reads the complaint.

Lee testified that during his research into Albion’s products, he discovered that Albion was importing some products from Taiwan, including parts for the caulking guns in question.

U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman’s opinion says Albion manufactured all of its guns and accessories at its plant in Philadelphia from 1929 until 2000, when the company began importing “low-cost overseas manufacturing alternatives.” The company placed its first order for 20,000 dispensing guns from Taiwan in late 2001 and eventually began to import more products from Asia throughout the 2000s, according to the opinion.

Former Turner and Bloomberg Executives Plead Guilty in Bribery Conspiracy

Four former executives of Turner Construction Co. and Bloomberg LLC have been charged with federal tax crimes in addition to charges brought forth by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Ronald Olson, a former vice president and deputy operation manager for Turner, pleaded guilty to federal charges of evading taxes on more than $1.5 million in bribes he received from subcontractors in exchange for being awarded contracts for Bloomberg projects.

Michael Campana, a former construction manager at Bloomberg, was sentenced to 24 months in prison for evading taxes on more than $420,000 in the bribery scheme. Anthony Guzzone, a former construction project manager for Bloomberg, was charged with evading taxes on more than $1.4 million in bribes while Vito NiGro, an executive at Turner, was charged with evading taxes on more than $1.8 million.

The investigation focused on the period between 2011 and 2017 when Guzzone worked at Bloomberg. According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, each of the defendants participated in a scheme to obtain bribes from subcontractors, who paid kickbacks in exchange for being awarded various construction contractors and subcontracts performed for Bloomberg.

The four men also have pleaded guilty to charges brought forth by the Manhattan district attorney, which accused them of stealing more than $15 million from Bloomberg through inflated subcontractor bids, fictitious work orders and change orders, and misappropriation of unused subcontractor allowance funds. Nigro, Olson and Guzzone all pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the first degree and will be sentenced to at least one to three years in state prison. Campana pleaded guilty to money laundering in the third degree with a sentence of one year in jail and $239,800 in restitution.

Thus far, 22 of the various subcontracting company owners, executives and vendors charged with furthering the conspiracy have pleaded guilty to their role in the conspiracies and paid approximately $8.8 million in restitution.

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