Worker sues over ruptured air valve

April 09, 1995|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

A Harford County utility worker is suing a Bel Air engineering firm and a Fallston contractor for alleged negligence and faulty design and installation of an air relief valve that burst and struck him in the face in 1992.

In the lawsuit, Ronald Burns, 34, of the 2400 block of Rocks Road in Forest Hill, contends he was removing the valve to repair a leaky water main when it burst, injuring his head and neck.

Mr. Burns, an employee of the Department of Public Works, is seeking $350,000 in damages from Frederick Ward Associates Inc., the company that designed the water line; David R. Hall, an engineer for Frederick Ward Associates; and T. C. Simons Inc., ++ the contractor responsible for building Wheel Road Feeder System, a county project, in 1991 and 1992.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Harford Circuit Court, also alleges the defendants were "reckless" and "careless" in designing and building the 20-inch water main from Patterson Mill Road to Brier Hill Road near Bel Air.

As detailed in the lawsuit, Mr. Burns was working in an air-release vault about 10:30 a.m. June 12. As he removed the valve, it "suddenly blew and struck [him] in the face," the lawsuit says.

James Lee Katz, a Baltimore attorney representing Mr. Burns, said part of the metal valve struck his client just above the eye.

"It's fortunate he wasn't struck just a bit lower, or he might have had most of his face ripped off," Mr. Katz said.

Mr. Burns still suffers from neurological problems, such as persistent headaches, he said.

He said feeder system was "lacked proper valves to release the air pressure so the system could be worked on safely."

David Wang, president of Frederick Ward Associates, said neither he nor Mr. Hall had seen the lawsuit and had no comment.

T. C. Simons officials said they knew nothing about the lawsuit and declined to discuss it, a company spokeswoman said.

In another Harford Circuit Court case, Ronald Dean Deppish, 27, of the 300 block of Union Ave. in Havre de Grace, pleaded guilty Tuesday to child abuse and a sexual offense involving a 3-year-old girl.

In a plea arrangement, Deppish agreed to a maximum prison sentence of 35 years with all but eight years suspended. On release, he will be on supervised probation for five years. During that time, he may not have unsupervised contact with anyone under 16 and no overnight visitation with anyone under 16, even if supervised. He also must pay all current and future mental health expenses for the victim.

Judge William O. Carr set sentencing for May 24.

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