An orthopedic expert advises on a case involving a four workers who were performing maintenance work on a heater at defendant’s refinery. The vessel operates at about 30 psi and over 1300 °F. While in the process of removing dummy water spray nozzles, hot gases and particulates were ejected that caused burns and other injuries to them.
The heater must be taken down periodically for maintenance. In order to speed up the cooling of this vessel so that maintenance can begin, steam and then water is injected into it through five spray nozzles located on the second floor around the perimeter of the vessel.
Plaintiff alleges that the safety chain on the dummy nozzle that limits the amount it can be retracted was not installed properly by a contractor when the dummy nozzles were inserted into the heater nozzles. This allowed the dummy nozzle to be withdrawn about 12” further than design, which resulted in the dummy nozzle being fully withdrawn from the heater nozzle. This allowed hot and toxic gas and steam to blow out of the heater nozzle.
The plaintiff alleges he suffered numerous injuries, including injury to his shoulder. He sued the contractor who installed the safety chain and the refinery owner alleging they failed to exercise reasonable care.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. What did plaintiff’s MRI show?
- 2. Was there an injury related to this incident?
Expert Witness Response
I have reviewed plaintiff’s MRI scan of the right shoulder. Reviewing MRI scans are a part of my regular practice and I review MRI scans as well as other diagnostic materials every week. The MRI scan of plaintiff’s shoulder was performed three days after the incident. The MRI showed no evidence of acute tears, fractures, or other evidence of acute injury. The partial-thickness tear of the supraspinatus is a degenerative process known as tendonisis and is not the result of trauma. It is related to age and normal usage. I see this condition on a regular basis in my practice. It does not require surgical treatment or other treatment and has no limitations referable to the plaintiff’s shoulder.
The opinions are based upon my education, training, and experience as applied to the specific facts of the present case and, specifically, to plaintiff’s complaints relating to his shoulder. It is my opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, that plaintiff did not suffer a shoulder injury as a result of the accident.
The expert is board certified in orthopedic surgery by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery and has been practicing in orthopedics for 25 years. The expert has written articles and been involved in research, teaching and clinical practice in the field of orthopedic medicine for more than 20 years.