Fire Caused by the Malfunction of a Pump in Texas
In Union Pump Co. v. Allbritton, 898 S.W.2d 773, 776 (Tex. 1995), a fire occurred at a chemical facility.
The fire was caused by the malfunction of a pump, which had malfunctioned twice before. See id. The malfunction caused the pump to catch fire and ignite the surrounding area. See id.
Allbritton, an employee of the chemical company, was ordered to assist in abating the fire; she did. See id.
After the fire was extinguished, another employee, Subia, was instructed to "block in" a nitrogen purge valve. See id. Allbritton asked to accompany Subia and was allowed to do so. See id.
To get to the purge valve, Allbritton climbed over an aboveground pipe rack instead of going around it. See id.
When they reached the purge valve, they were instructed the repair was no longer necessary. See id. Again, Allbritton chose to climb over the pipe rack instead of taking the safer route around it, but this time, she slipped off the pipe rack and injured herself. See id.
The pipe rack was wet because of the fire and Allbritton was wearing fireman's hip boots and other gear when she fell. See id.
Allbritton sued Union Pump alleging the defective pump caused her injuries. See id. She claimed that "but for" the pump fire, she would not have walked over the pipe rack, which was wet with water or firefighting foam. See id.
In rejecting Allbritton's claim, the supreme court again found the connection between the defendant's conduct, the manufacture of a defective pump, too attenuated to have been the legal cause of the plaintiff's injury. See Union Pump, 898 S.W.2d at 776.
Specifically, the court found that any acts or omissions of the defendant had run their course and were complete. See id.
Thus, the defendant's conduct did no more than create the condition which made the injury possible, which is insufficient for legal cause. See id.
As the court stated:
Even if the pump fire were in some sense a "philosophic" or "but for" cause of Allbritton's injuries, the forces generated by the fire had come to rest when she fell off the pipe rack. The fire had been extinguished, and Allbritton was walking away from the scene. 898 S.W.2d at 776.