Disfigured Carpet Installers Awarded $8 Million

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Two carpet installers who were severely burned when the adhesive they were using ignited have been awarded $8 million in damages.

A Summit County Common Pleas Court jury found on Monday that the adhesive's manufacturer, South Carolina-based Para-Chem, did not include warning labels that go far enough to explain the product's hazards, mainly that it can lead to an explosion.

Greg Roach, 36, of Canton won a $5 million judgment. He had lost the tips of his fingers and much of his hearing and sight. He was burned over 65 percent of his body.

His former work partner, Gordon Falkner, 40, of Green, won $3 million. Falkner suffered burns over 35 percent of his body while picking up Roach to help him escape.

The men were permanently disfigured, their attorneys said. Each man's medical bills exceeded $3 million.

Roach and Falkner were installing outdoor carpet in September 1998 in the basement of an Akron home when the pilot light of a hot-water tank in an adjacent room ignited the adhesive's vapors. Both men were thrown through the air during two explosions.

Attorneys for Para-Chem, based in Simpsonville, S.C., said they will appeal the verdict.

The 3.5-gallon container of adhesive was marked on the front with "All Weather Outdoor Adhesive" and had a side label that read, "Do not use indoors because of flammability."

"I guess it's too much to expect that people will read a label," said Para-Chem attorney Kenneth Abarrno of Cleveland. "What else are we supposed to do? If we as a society are at the point where we can't read a label, then that says something of where we are going."

Roach acknowledged during the two-week trial that he read the warnings that the carpet adhesive was specifically designed for outdoor use.

Juror George M. Duhon, 75, a retired Firestone tire worker from Akron, said the adhesive's labeling was the primary reason he supported the carpet installers, regardless of whether they read the labels or not.

"They didn't cover all the bases. It should jump out at you, especially if it's that dangerous. It says it's flammable, but it didn't say anything about the explosiveness and it didn't explain why you can't use it indoors," Duhon said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)