• Michigan Federal Court Grants Summary Judgment To Company That Inspected Pipeline Before Rupture
  • November 2, 2014
  • Law Firm: Sutherland Asbill Brennan LLP - Washington Office
  • The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan granted summary judgment to the company that conducted inspections of an oil pipeline in 2005 that later ruptured in 2010 on claims brought by a property owner. Specifically, the property owner alleged that the inspecting company was negligent in performing its 2005 inspection because the report it provided to the pipeline owner contained two errors: 1) the anomalies in the pipeline were classified as “crack-like,” which referred to a series of closely spaced cracks, rather than “crack-field,” which referred to one continuous linear crack; and 2) the depth of the crack was understated. The property owner alleged that the pipeline owner would have excavated the pipeline and repaired the crack had it been provided with accurate information from this inspection.

    In granting summary judgment to the inspection company, the court concluded that the inspection company had no duty to the property owner. The only connection between the two was “very limited” and consisted of the inspection company’s tool passing through the pipeline in 2005, and across the plaintiff’s property, and the inspection company providing a report to the pipeline owner the following year with results from the inspection. The court explained that this relationship was too attenuated to create a duty to the property owner, especially given that the inspection company did not undertake the pipeline owner’s duty to maintain the pipeline. There also was no evidence in the record that the pipeline owner chose to forego any maintenance activities based on the inspection company’s report. The court also opined that even if a duty existed, the plaintiff could not prove that the accuracy of the inspection report’s information was causative of the pipeline rupture.