Heating Oil Customer Awarded $100k in Spill Damages

Heating Oil Customer Awarded $100k in Spill Damages

A Detroit woman whose home had to be demolished after an accidental heating oil spill has been awarded $100,000 for mental distress, chicagotribune.com reported.

The payment order was upheld by the Michigan Appeals Court last week after the heating oil company, High Pointe Oil, argued the plaintiff was not entitled to sue for non-economic damages. She had already been awarded a $175,000 insurance payout.

Beckie Price of DeWitt was forced to temporarily move in with her parents after a heating oil delivery-man accidentally flooded her basement with 400 gallons of oil in November 2007.

The contractor mistakenly pumped heat fuel into a pipe that was no longer attached to a tank in Price’s basement, the court heard. She had switched to a propane furnace a year earlier and told the company to take her off its customer database.

Oil leaked into soil below Price’s home – where she had lived since 1975 – and the house had to be demolished. Price was forced to sleep on her parents’ couch and had no permanent home for two years.

“It’s rather embarrassing to be 50-some-years-old and have to move back in with mom and dad,” Price, 55, said at trial.

Though relatively rare, home heating oil spills can have serious environmental consequences and dangerous health effects. The oil is considered a hazardous substance and must be cleaned up by licensed professionals according to stringent state and federal regulations.

A leaking home oil tank can be costly to remedy, as the oil often seeps into the soil and may require large areas of earth to be excavated as part of the clean-up at the homeowner’s expense. It’s important to check old tanks for signs of deterioration and have them regularly inspected.

Though High Pointe Oil had appealed the $100,000 emotional distress order, the Appeals Court ruled the payment was appropriate because a house was more than just a home.

“Authors and poets alike wax philosophical about the unique value of a home, which often provides as much if not more feelings of emotion and memories as it does shelter,” the court ruled in affirming an earlier jury’s award to Price.

The impact of losing real estate could be different than simply losing personal possessions, the judges said.

Dealing with the consequences caused by the loss of, or severe damage to, one’s home and relocating or rebuilding also often involves considerable time and energy in addition to stress.

Price’s attorney, James Graves, said the saga had been a long ordeal for her and “very difficult to say the least.”

The Atkinson oil storage tank overfill prevention valve is designed to mechanically shut off the fill inlet when it reaches capacity. So even if the delivery driver is not paying attention it will avoid a spill of oil from your tank.

We also offer the Offset fill point to enable you to have a filling point at a remote location to the tank, this can also be fitted with an overfill prevention valve.