Case Studies

Eighth Circuit Affirms Victory for Omega Flex, Inc. in Products Liability Action

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit unanimously affirmed a defense verdict in favor of Lewis Rice client Omega Flex, Inc. in a case involving allegations by an insurer that Omega Flex's gas piping product was defective and caused a house fire following an indirect lightning strike.

In 2011, American Automobile Insurance Company (AAIC) sued Omega Flex in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on theories of negligence, products liability, and breach of warranty. AAIC alleged that corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) manufactured by Omega Flex for use in residential gas transportation systems was defectively designed and was too thin to withstand energy from an indirect lightning strike that occurred near AAIC's insured's property and resulted in a house fire.

Prior to trial, the District Court granted Omega Flex's motion to exclude certain opinions proffered by AAIC's expert relating to CSST's design, and entered summary judgment in favor of Omega Flex on AAIC's claims for breach of warranty and failure to warn. Following a four-day trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Omega Flex, finding that Omega Flex did not fail to use ordinary care in designing the CSST, or otherwise sell the CSST in an unreasonably dangerous or defective condition. Lewis Rice attorneys Thomas P. Berra, Jr., Neal F. Perryman, Oliver H. Thomas, and Edward T. Pivin were part of a trial team led by William J. Conroy and Lynne O'Brien Ingram of the Pennsylvania-based law firm of Campbell Campbell Edwards & Conroy, P.C.

Following the District Court's denial of its motion for a new trial, AAIC filed its appeal with the Eighth Circuit, arguing that the District Court's exclusion of its expert's opinions on design, coupled with its admission of testimony from Omega Flex's expert, constituted a clear and prejudicial abuse of discretion. The Eighth Circuit disagreed, and affirmed the District Court's rulings under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). See Am. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Omega Flex, Inc., No. 14-1783, 2015 WL 1653209 (8th Cir. Apr. 15, 2015). Lewis Rice attorney Neal Perryman successfully argued the matter before the Eighth Circuit.