Ozone Machines

Ozone Machines

We have been investigating water damage claims due to overflowing or leaking washing machines for a number years. An investigation was recently performed on a washing machine that was connected to an ozone machine. The use of ozone in the laundry process is not a new concept but, the machines are beginning to appear in residences connected to household washing machines. In the case that was investigated, the claim was that the ozone machine leaked or somehow caused the washing machine to leak water. The machine that was examined is shown in the photo below. Upon examination, it was determined that the machine injected ozone into the water as it flowed through the machine and into the washer. It was further determined that when the flow stopped, the production of ozone also stopped. Lastly, it was also discovered that the control of the water flow remained with the washing machine and had nothing to do with the ozone machine. Since there was no evidence of water leakage from the ozone machine, it was concluded that the source of water had to have been the washing machine and was also declared a defective product.

Ozone machine used with washing machine

Water Source Heat Pumps

Recently, we attended a seminar on Water Source Heat Pumps (WSHPs). It seems that the HVAC industry is pushing the installation of WSHPs, in commercial buildings, in order to help reduce green house gas emissions. In effect, WSHPs are taking the place of gas fired furnaces and boilers. Why should the insurance industry be concerned? As shown in the diagrams below, WSHPs use a water loop, much like a chilled water cooling system, to transfer heat to or from the space to be cooled or heated. The amount of piping used in these systems indicates that the volume of water can amount to hundreds of gallons, depending on the size of the building. If a leak occurs, the cost to repair can extend into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Similary, the cost to repair or replace property can extend into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Possible causes of water leakage can include faulty workmanship by the installing contractor and defective materials used during installation.

Water loop used in water source heat pump systems

Buyer Beware!

Currently, there a number of ads running on television pitching how some insurance policies can save consumers large amounts of money in appliance and automobile repair costs. These ads give consumers the impression that air conditioner, refrigerator, or dishwasher repairs can run into the thousands of dollars. Similarly, engine, transmission, or coolant leaks can also result in very costly repairs. If you are considering the purchase of one of these policies, please be aware that maintenance is a key requirement. Regardless of the type of policy, your claim will most likely be denied if you can’t prove that you maintained your appliances or vehicle on a regular basis. For appliances, this means that you must keep your appliance clean. Use a vacuum cleaner to keep dust and lint out of motors and coils. Replace hoses when their use appears questionable. Replace wiring or have an electrician do the work before the wiring becomes worn and brittle. Similarly, you must change the oil in your vehicle at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. In addition, the transmission fluid and filter must be replaced, usually every 100,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer’s recommended interval. Coolant must also be replaced, here again, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation. Don’t forget the oil, air and gasoline filters, they also must be replaced. Lastly, don’t forget to save the receipts regardless of whether you do the work yourself or have someone else do it for you. You must have some documentation to show that you made an honest effort to live up to the requirements of the policy. For those things where you won’t get a receipt, I would suggest keeping a chart of the activity – list the date, time, a description of the appliance or vehicle and what was done. Hopefully, your carrier will step up when you need them and the settlement of your claim will go smoothly.

Ford Recalls Escape, Others for Roll-Away Problem

The Ford Motor company is recalling approximately 2.9 million vehicles as a result of a problem with the transmission shift cable. This recall applies to the following vehicles: 2013 to 2019 Escape, 2013-2018 C Max, 2013 to 2016 Fusion, 2013 to 2021 Transit Connect, and 2015 to 2018 Edge. The problem with these vehicles is that the transmission shift cable uses a bushing to connect the cable to the transmission, which can fail. Once the cable has detached, there is no communication link between the transmission and the vehicle. Consequently, the vehicle can roll, in an unexpected direction, and crash. Ford intends to replace the bushing and add a protective cap at no cost to the vehicle owner. Ford also intends to begin notifying owners beginning on June 27. For additional information, owners can contact ford by calling toll free 1-866-436-7332. Ford’s identification number for this recall is 22S43.

Boiler/Steam System Design

We have recently completed a review course in Boiler/Steam Systems Design. Steam systems are used in everything from air conditioning to manufacturing to power generation. For those involved in adjusting commercial claims, the implications for possible claims include faulty work, either in installation or maintenance; defective products, and defective system design. Those potentially liable for their errors include contractors, manufacturers, engineers, and codes inspectors. For additional information or for posing additional inquiries, please feel free to contact us by sending email to rjhill@rjhill.com or by calling 615-727-3601.

Water Damage But No Signs of Water

Part of owning a recreational vehicle or travel trailer is keeping up with the maintenance. Owners of these types of vehicles know that they must make sure that sealed seams remain sealed so as to prevent water leakage. When water leaks occur, the signs are usually obvious: water stains will appear on ceilings, walls, and floors. In addition, when water has a chance to collect, spongy floors can be the result of rotting plywood. But, what about those times when the damage is there but the cause isn’t so obvious. Case-in-point, spongy floor but no water stains anywhere. This was an actual case that was recently encountered. Once the titled floor was removed from the damaged area, it became obvious that water stains were present and that water had caused the plywood subfloor to rot. Since there were no indications that the water came from outside the trailer, it had to have come from within. It was later determined that water lines had been routed beneath the floor where the damage had occurred. It then became clear that one of the lines had to have been leaking and caused the floor damage. Photos of the damaged floor and rotten subfloor are shown below.

Damaged floor adjacent to exterior wall
Title floor removed from damaged area, water damaged plywood subfloor found rotted

Who Owns the Evidence?

Recently, we conducted the examination of a 2013 Kia Soul, the purpose of which was to determine the cause of a fire. The vehicle had developed a problem with the antilock braking system and was taken to a local shop for repair. While on the shop’s lot and after an overnight, the vehicle was destroyed by fire the following day. During the examination of the vehicle, it was later confirmed that the fire had occurred on the repair shop’s property. It was also confirmed that the vehicle was owned by a third party. As a result, since the vehicle was evidence in the investigation, and since the vehicle was owned by the third party, the right of evidence ownership belonged to the third party. The implication being that any disassembly, or more importantly, any destruction of the evidence could be regarded as an act of “spoliation”. Spoliation of evidence refers to evidence that has been violated to the extent that one party to a lawsuit cannot use the evidence to prove its case. The party that causes the spoliation can usually be held liable by means of litigation. In these types of cases where the owner of the evidence is not the investigating expert’s client, care must be taken not to handle, remove, or otherwise examine something that can be altered by handling, broken, or replaced in its original position or state. It is advisable to photograph and document the condition of evidence and then conduct a joint examination with all interested parties at a later time.

Water Damage and Frost-Proof Faucets

Many homes and businesses are now equipped with something called a frost-proof faucet.  These devices are nothing new and have been around for several years.  They have all but replaced the old style water hydrants that had to be wrapped or covered and protected during winter months to keep them from bursting.  But, in order for a frost-proof faucet to work properly, it must be installed properly.  You would think that a plumber would be especially mindful of the consequences if they didn’t do the job right.  In any case, frost-proof faucets do rupture and the resulting water leakage can cause damage, either in a crawl space or inside a wall.  The photographs below show how the copper tube expanded at the point of rupture indicating where the water turned to ice and stressed the tube to the point of failure.  In order to understand what happened, it is necessary to understand that the faucet is equipped with a long stem that runs from the valve handle to the end of the copper tube where the water line is connected.  This is where the valve seat is located.  The valve seat is actually the part that stops the water flow when the valve is turned off.  If the faucet is installed horizontally or pitched upward, water will stay inside the copper tube instead of draining out of the hose connection end when the faucet is turned off.  The faucet must be pitched slightly downward with the hose connection end lower than the water line inlet end. Even if the valve seat is leaking, water must be allowed to drain out of the faucet.  In the case of the faucet in the photograph, when the water froze, its tendency was to expand to approximately 9 to 11% of its volume.  However, because of the enclosure within the copper tube, the ice could not freely expand.  As a result, the tube wall was stressed to a point where failure occurred.

Failed Water Hydrant
Expanded copper wall shown as bulge just to left of water line attachment
Area of copper tube wall failure

Importance of Leveling

Approximately four years ago, we conducted an examination of a reach-in cooler to determine why the door came off its upper hinge and struck the customer on the head who opened the door.  The injury to the customer’s head wasn’t serious but, a lawsuit did follow and was later settled out of court.  The cooler was typical of those found in grocery and convenience stores where shoppers can get milk, juice, or other cold beverages (see photo below). 

Reach-in cooler where the center door separated from upper hinge and hit custome

In order to understand how the accident occurred, the importance of leveling the cooler must be understood.  Leveling the cooler means that all of the horizontal surfaces are parallel and all of the vertical surfaces are parallel,  More specifically, the cooler door must be at right angles to the to the hinge brackets.  In this case, the cooler was not leveled during installation.  For whatever reason, the center leveling leg was found to have been lost when the cooler was installed.  When a leveling leg was finally installed on the cooler, it was never adjusted to make the cooler level.  As a result, the weight of the contents inside the cooler caused two horizontal structural members to bend (see photos below). The resulting bends caused the door to drop downward and at a small angle to the hinge brackets.  More importantly, the upper hinge pin dropped low enough in the hinge bracket so that when the door was opened, the hinge pin spun out of the hinge bracket causing the door to separate.  When the separation occurred, the tendency of the door was to rotate about the lower hinge and strike the customer.  

Upper and lower structural members bent in approximate center of cooler, leveling legs on ends adjusted for leveling
Center leveling leg found in fully inserted position, cooler not leveled

Hyundai and Kia Latest Engine Fire Updates

Hyundai and Kia are still having problems with engine fires.  The manufacturers are now telling owners to park their vehicles outside of their garages and carports because their vehicles can suddenly ignite even if the vehicles have not been driven.  The warning applies to approximately 485,000 vehicles in the U.S.  The problem is with the antilock braking system module which can leak fluid and cause an internal short circuit that leads to a fire.  This recall now includes 2014 – 2016 Kia Sportage, 2016 – 2019 K900 Sedans, 2016 – 2018 Santa Fe SUVs, 2017 – 2018 Santa Fe Sports, 2019 Santa Fe XL, and 2014 – 2015 Tucson SUVs.  Dealers are supposed to replace a fuse and if necessary the anti-lock brake control module.  Kia is expected to begin notifying owners beginning on March 31st and Hyundai owners will be notified beginning on April 5th.  We have previously reported on this issue and the articles are still available for review.  The articles are in the following posting sates: Feb 2020, Sept 2020, Jan 2021, May 2021, and Dec 2021.  The articles can be accessed by clicking on the month and year located on the right side margin and scrolling through the page after it loads.  For additional information, about the recalls, owners can contact Hyundai or Kia by phone or email as listed in the articles.   

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