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Federal-Mogul workers file $11 million lawsuit

10 August 2012

Three contract workers burned in an explosion and fire at the Federal-Mogul Corp auto parts plant in Blacksburg, Virginia, in December 2010 have launched a lawsuit seeking $11 million in compensation, alleging “inherently dangerous" conditions at the plant.

The 2010 explosion caused serious damage to the Blacksburg plant
The 2010 explosion caused serious damage to the Blacksburg plant

At the time of the explosion, the employees of Roanoke-based LCM Corp. were cleaning ducts used to transport combustible dust away from the manufacturing area. Two suffered what at the time were called potentially life-threatening burns, and third was also injured.

The explosion at Federal-Mogul, which employs about 300 people, caused extensive damage and could be felt several miles away.

The case, filed in the US District Court in Roanoke, raises questions about the system used to collect volatile aluminum dust generated from the manufacture of car engine bearings at the plant.

The system uses ducts to transport the dust to a bag house outside of the main plant, which according to the lawsuit is where the explosion ignited.

A flash protector that was supposed to contain such a blast failed, enabling a fireball to travel back into the plant through the duct system, the lawsuit alleges.

In describing a "defective and unreasonably dangerous" method of collecting dust, the lawsuit claims that Federal-Mogul was negligent in at least eight different ways.

Among the allegations: The company designed a system that lacked proper explosion containment methods and it failed to take steps that might have prevented the incident.

The lawsuit claims that Federal-Mogul never emptied a drum used to store the dust in the bag house or changed filters used in the process, which it called "highly abnormal."

And in the eight years that the dust collection system was in operation, the ducts had not been cleaned until LCM was hired to do the job, the lawsuit states. LCM is not accused of wrongdoing in the lawsuit.

Federal-Mogul declined to comment.

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