Hired Guns

Figure 1 Leaking shower valve

We recently investigated the cause of damage to a local residence involving a water leak.  You would think that a water leak would be obvious, and it was, but the cause of the water leak wasn’t.  The water was found to have  been coming from a bathroom shower valve.  It seems that water was leaking from the valve because of a broken plastic piece of the valve stem housing.  The valve is shown in figure 1.  The valve was later removed by the insurance company’s restoration contractor and turned over to an engineering firm for examination.  The engineering company later determined that the valve contained a manufacturer’s defect in the form of a poorly formed plastic component.  The report also stated that no indication of installation error was found.  It should be noted that there were only three modes of failure possible: installation error, manufacturing defect, or a freezing episode.  It should be further noted that this incident occurred in January when temperatures were cold enough to support a freezing scenario.  The expert’s engineering report did not mention a freezing scenario as a possibility of failure. Why?  If the report had mentioned the possibility of damage by freezing, then the insurance company’s case would have been severly weakened.  By not including the possibility of freezing in the report, the insurance company could file suit against the general and plumbing contractors and increased their chances to recover what it had to spend in order to repair the residence.  The expert’s report was clearly written in order to substantiate the insurance company’s position without consideration and explanation given to all possibilities of failure.  As a result, it became clear that the opposing expert was a “hired gun”, someone paid to testify on their client’s behalf regardless of the facts.  These are the kinds of people (and companies) that should be avoided at all costs.  They can be discredited easily because of their lack of consideration for all the facts.  The case was later settled out of court for a fraction of the plaintiff’s originally claimed damages.  

About R.J. Hill, P.E.
R. J. Hill is the author of two blogs: R.J. Hill Consulting and the Descendants of James Alexander Hill. Mr. Hill is a registered professional (mechanical) engineer with 42 years of experience, 37 years in private practice. Please visit www.rjhill.com to see the kinds of forensic investigations that Mr. Hill performs.

2 Responses to Hired Guns

  1. water damage says:

    We recently had a slab leak in our home and have a lot of water damage downstairs and think we may have mold. I’m not sure if testing is a good idea or if we can assume we have mold due to the fact it was a pretty big flood? All our baseboards and drywall got wet about 4 feet up from the floor … total nightmare!

    I appreciate your helpful information.



    • The presence of mold will depend partly on how long surfaces condusive to mold growth have been wet. Your insurance company should hire a company that will take care of drying, replacing and otherwise, making the place inhabitable agaiin. Part of their job will be to inspect for mold growth. If you or they see any black spots on wall board, flooring, furniture, ceilings, etc, then mold remediation is in order. If however, nothing is found, then I wouldn’t worry about testing. Mold is one of those things that is everywhere and unless you or someone in your household has respiratory problems, then the drying and reconstruction process usually takes care of correcting the problems associated with flooding. If you are not insured, then you have a long hard job ahead of you. Either way, I wish you good luck. While you are getting your house back together, don’t forget to repair the leak.


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