Plumbing leak – defense verdict – “plastic creep”

Matthew Fiorello defended a plumbing client in this Martin County subrogation case.  The plaintiff was an insurance company.  

Plaintiff sued defendant for a leak that occurred in 2014 in an upscale home on the St. Lucie River in Palm City, FL.  Defendant installed all new plumbing and fixtures in 2007 (including toilets and supply lines).  In 2014, it was alleged that the toilet supply line plastic ballcock nut fractured and leaked, causing $192,000 in damage and costs.  It was alleged by plaintiff that defendant used a tool on the hand-tighten-only nut and overtightened the nut causing it to fracture 7 years later.  

Defendant did not dispute the damages, but heavily disputed liability.  Plaintiff called the homeowners to testify that no one had serviced the toilets since 2007 and that no one had serviced the supply line.  Plaintiff also called an expert to testify that the nut was overtightened 7 years prior and that the overtightening caused a phenomenon called “plastic creep” that causes the slow erosion of the plastic which led to the nut fracturing 7 years after it was tightened.   

Defense was able to restrict all of the expert’s causation opinions based on defendant’s voir dire of the expert outside the presence of the jury.  The Judge struck all of the opinions and only allowed the expert to testify that he had photographed the nut, could see a fracture in the nut, and could see tool marks on the nut.  Expert was not permitted to opine about what caused the fracture, when it was fractured, or whether the fracture lead to the leak.  

Defense did not present a case, but examined clients on cross-examination after plaintiff called them in their case in chief.  Defense did not hire an expert.  

The jury deliberated for 30 minutes and returned a verdict of no negligence on the part of the defendant.