Industry-Leading Plumbing Experts Discuss Burns from Overheated Shower Water

Plumbing Expert WitnessThis case involves a young boy who was burned in the shower by scalding hot water which poured out of a shower head. The boy and his family were tenants in a large apartment building in Chicago, having moved in just 5 days before the incident in question. Prior to this incident, the boy and his family had used the shower without incident on multiple occasions. Eventually, a fault occurred in the building’s water heating system, which caused the temperature of hot water for the building to skyrocket to dangerous levels. When the Plaintiff went to use the shower, he turned on the water while standing under the shower head. The hot water poured out, causing serious scalds across his entire body.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Have you ever inspected a plumbing system that was known to have caused serious burns to residents?
  • 2. What protocol will you take to inspect the boiler and plumbing system to ensure that it's safe for use by residents and tenants of a rental property?

Expert Witness Response E-000033

Expert-ID: E-000033

In a case like this, I typically begin by performing visual observations at the boiler room, including at the boiler, domestic hot water coil, associated gauges and valves, domestic water heater, etc.where applicable (depending upon what equipment is providing the hot water). An inspection is also typically performed at the tap where the scalding incident occurred within the apartment. I typical measure the hot water temperature being delivered to the tap at the time of the inspection over a limited period of time. While the temperatures recorded may not necessarily be reflective of the conditions at the time of the accident (i.e. – if system adjustments have already been made since the occurrence of the incident), such measurements can be reflective of general system conditions.

Expert Witness Response E-006020

I would love the opportunity to resolve the questions as to how and why someone had a water temperature hot enough to cause burns. One component that needs to be inspected is the tub/shower valve. There should be a pressure balancing valve or other means to make sure the water temperature is a maximum 120º. The heating source, water heater or boiler controls, the mixing valve that would temper the water, the re-circulating line and piping all need to be inspected. Also any new piping or controls and perhaps permits with the administrative authority will need to be looked at. Temperatures will need to be monitored and things like “stacking” will need to be monitored as well.


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