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Torts keyed to Robertson
Grace & Co. v. City of Los Angeles
Citation:United States District Court, Southern District of California, 1958. 168 F.Supp. 344, affirmed, 278 F.2d 771 (9th Cir. 1960).
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Plaintiff was the owner of 1,960 bags of coffee which were being stored in a shed at Berth 59, Los Angeles Harbor which was owned and maintained by the Defendant. The Defendant also maintained a public street adjacent to the shed which contained an 8-inch cast-iron pipe-line. A line leading into the shed from the 8-inch pipe burst, flooding the shed with a great quantity of water and damaging the Plaintiff’s coffee. Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant permitted the pipe to stay beneath the shed although they knew or should have known that the pipe was in weak and decaying condition. It was conceded that the pipe was not installed negligently and was the best pipe available at the time. Although they were not aware at the time of the installation, the Defendant later became aware of the highly corrosive nature of the soil where the pipe was installed. However, after economic considerations, the Defendants decided on a policy to do nothing about maintaining, repairing, or replacing such pipe-lines until a leak occurred or water was discovered.
Plaintiff contended that the Defendant knew or should have known that the pipe was located in highly corrosive soil and that over the period of years that had passed should have conducted some inspection to determine whether there was a likelihood of the pipe bursting. Plaintiff also contended that the failure to make an inspection for a period of forty-years was negligence.
At trial, experts testified that the pipe failed because of a type of corrosion called graphitic corrosion. Graphitic corrosion is when iron in pipe is leached and replaced by graphite. It occurs over a long period of time and the only effect is that the pipe loses strength so that under pressure the pipe in certain parts gives way. The Plaintiff claimed that the Defendants had knowledge that for months prior to the incident there appeared to be a leakage of more than 130 cubic feet of water per day. However, experts at trial stated that in a graphitic corrosion break, there is no gradual leakage and the pipe gives way all at once and allows water to burst.
After Defendants received notice of the break in the pipe in question, the line was repaired by cutting out part of it and replacing it with a piece of cast iron pipe. The employees of the Defendant found an opening in the pipe caused by graphitic corrosion and that the rest of the pipe was in good condition.
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