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Siegman v. Schneider Electric United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 17, 2017

ROBERT SIEGMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC UNITED STATES, et al., Defendants.

          ROSSETTI & DEVOTO, P.C. By: Andrew J. Rossetti, Attorney for Plaintiff Robert Siegman

          SCHNADER HARRISON SEGAL & LEWIS LLP By: Carl J. Schaerf, Esq. Attorneys for Defendants Schneider Electric United States and Schneider Electric

          OPINION

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Robert Siegman, an electrician, was severely burned by an arc flash emitted from a live electrical transformer at the Federal Aviation Administration's (“FAA”) Technical Center in Atlantic City. Defendants Schneider Electric United States, Schneider Electric, and Schneider Electric d/b/a Square D (collectively, “Schneider Electric”) designed the transformer.[1] Plaintiff alleges that his injuries could have been prevented by feasible design changes that Defendant Schneider Electric should have implemented.

         Discovery is now complete. Schneider Electric moves for summary judgment asserting that the government contractor defense set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Boyle v. United Technologies Corp., 487 U.S. 500 (1988) precludes a finding of liability. The Court agrees.

         For the reasons stated herein, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.[2]

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On November 14, 2013, Plaintiff Siegman was working for his employer, Scalfo Electric, Inc., at the FAA Tech Center Substation Number 2 when the accident occurred. (Schaerf Aff. Ex. K) Plaintiff testified at his deposition that he “has no recollection of” what happened. (Siegman Dep. p. 16) Scalfo Electric's Incident Report (Schaerf Aff. Ex. K) states the following:

The employee was working on the left-hand side of the new Substation No. 2 electrical equipment making final bus link connections between the transformer and 208 volt switchgear. The left-hand side of the new equipment was de-energized and lockout - tagout devices were applied. For unknown reasons the employee decided to open the enclosure door for the transformer (right-hand side) of the new Substation No. 2, which was energized. The employee accidentally came in contact with an energized exposed conductor and an arc-flash occurred resulting in the employee receiving significant burn injury [sic].
The employee did not follow the proper procedures / protocol for the work activity. He was not authorized to open the energized transformer enclosure. He did not have the necessary written procedure for that work activity. He did not wear the appropriate arc-rated PPE.

         (Schaerf Aff. Ex. K).

The FAA's post-incident investigation report states,
To enter the [energized transformer] cabinet [Siegman] would have had to loosen the four bolts that secure the door and then turn the handle to release the door to open it. When [Siegman] stepped into the cabinet contact was made with the transformer tap and the cabinet causing the arch [sic] flash to occur and tripping the two medium voltage breakers for that transformer.

         (Rosetti Cert. Ex. E)

         Siegman was working pursuant to Scalfo Electric's contract with the FAA to install the subject medium voltage cast coil dry-type transformer designed by Defendant Schneider Electric. (Antweiler 05/18/16 Dep. p. 9; Lesnieski Dep. p. 7) The specific area where Siegman was working was not open to the public; only “trained personnel” who have been given “access to that area” could enter. (Duffy Dep. p. 22-23)

         Schneider's witness, James Antweiler[3], explained the company's general design process: “When [Schneider] receive[s] an order for a transformer we process the order. The order would go to whoever our supplier is, in this case ABB. And then [it] would manufacture the transformer per the customer's specifications and our specifications.” (Antweiler 05/18/16 Dep. p. 17)

         With respect to the specific design process that occurred between Schneider and the FAA, Antweiler further testified, Q: . . . How are [FAA specifications] and [Schneider specifications] different?

A: Our specifications are general specifications that apply to all transformers that we buy. And then the FAA specifications are specific to the job. And that would be the voltages required, the impedances required, the size of the transformer required, all those things that apply to the specific end user.
. . .
Q: With regard to the specification for the doors [on the transformer], the type of doors, the type of hinges, the handles, whose specs [sic] do they fall under?
A: That would be the FAA.
Q: So, the FAA specifies what type hinges they want on ...

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