$1,035,000 – Burns from Asphalt Spill

A settlement of more than $1 million has been reached between a man who was burned by molten asphalt and the defendants responsible for the production and sale of paper drums that caught on fire, causing the asphalt to spill. Martin Brigham and Eunice Trevor of Brigham & Trevor negotiated the $1.035 million settlement for the plaintiff, David Fadeley, who slipped in a pool of asphalt.

In April 1998, Fadeley, at the time a 30-year-old truck driver for a North Wales roofing contractor, was burned on his hands, lower back, buttocks, and legs when he slipped in the asphalt, which had spilled from the paper drums.

The drums were manufactured by Rock-Tenn Co. and sold by Bradco Supply Corp. Atlas Minerals & Chemicals assembled the drums, and Continental Materials approved the labeling on the drums.

According to Brigham and Trevor, the manufacturer maintained that the drums were designed to package asphalt in a processing plant. At the time of the fire, the drums were being used to transport and hold asphalt drained from a roofing kettle. This increases the chance molten asphalt flowed toward Fadeley, who was loading his truck with roofing supplies. As he tried to move the truck away from the rolling asphalt, it spread around and under the truck and covered Fadeley’s feet. Fadeley then slipped in the asphalt.

Fadeley underwent skin grafting to 4 percent of his body. He returned to work three months after suffering the burns, Trevor said in a phone interview.

“Dave’s commitment to try to bounce back from the accident and his will to get back to work and put the accident behind him were amazing,” she said.

Fadeley based his suit on inadequate warning and design defect theories, arguing that metal drums would have provided a safer alternative to paper drums.

Brigham and Trevor said that the source of the fire was contested by the defendants. The defendants argued that Fadeley’s co-worker was responsible for the fire, but the plaintiff’s attorneys argued that no matter the source of the fire, the drums were improperly designed and did not come with adequate warnings on the potential harms of their misuse.

“The accident would have been prevented, regardless of the ignition source, if metal drums had been sold to the plaintiff’s employer,” the attorneys said.

Thomas Rutter or ADR Options Inc. mediated the settlement. All the defendants – Rock-Tenn, Atlas Minerals, Bradco Supply, and Continental Materials – contributed to the agreement, Trevor said. However, Rock-Tenn was responsible for “much more” of the $1.035 million amount, Trevor said.

“I think that a big factor in their decision to settle was the videotaped deposition by the manufacturer. He said he was aware of the drums failing under other circumstances,” Trevor said.

Trevor said the Montgomery Township construction code was amended after the accident to require the use of metal drums for storing asphalt.

According to Trevor, the manufacturer also said it was going to work toward restricting the sale of the paper drums for storing asphalt outside of processing plants.

The trial was to have begun last Monday before Judge Thomas Watkins of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Glenn Campbell of Post & Schell represented Rock-Tenn, Richard Kraemer of Marshall Dennehey, Coleman & Goggin represented Continental Materials, Charles Daly of Campbell O’Keefe Nolan & Daly represented Bradco, and Eugene Maginnis of Dugan Brinkman Maginnis & Pace represented Atlas Materials.

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