In May 2012, a valve burst at a paper mill in South Carolina, injuring four employees, and now a lawsuit filed by three of those victims allege that the valve's manufacturer Flowrox Inc and distributor WACCO Inc. were negligent because the valve was defective and "unreasonably dangerous." In the lawsuit, the victims seek damages for their loss of ability to work, as well as pain and suffering resulting from the burns and resulting disfigurement.
Two of the three victims required weeks of rehab and extensive surgeries after their burns; one of them, who was burned over two-thirds of his body, was also blinded. The other two men were burned over 30 percent and 7 percent of their bodies.
The lawsuits allege that because the valve failed on May 19, 2012 at the Resolute Forest Products paper mill, sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide chemicals sprayed onto the victims. The chemical is used to break down paper mulch, and has devastating consequences when it comes in contact with human skin.
State investigators agreed that faulty equipment caused the incident, saying that "the valve sleeve inside the pinch valve failed." Further review showed that the valve suffered from design and manufacturing flaws.
At the time of the accident, nine valves were being used in the plant to break down paper mulch, and had been in use since 2010. These particular valves were bought by Resolute on the recommendation of both Flowrox and WACCO, according to the suit.
Despite those recommendations, allegations in the lawsuit explain that there were alternative designs for the valve that were safer for use and would have "prevented or significantly reduced" the men's injuries.
The burn incident was not the only one at that plant involving the dangerous mix of chemicals. In June 2012, a contractor delivering the chemical was splashed and burned. Six months earlier, a contractor cleaning a tank at the plant died from hydrogen sulfide intoxication.