In a recent decision by a state appellate court in Pennsylvania, Reeser v. NGK North American, Inc., Case No. 3275 EDA 2008 (Pa. Super Ct. Jan. 24, 2011), the court concluded that an engineering firm retained by a manufacturing facility to conduct testing and monitoring of the facility’s beryllium emissions had no duty to report the test results to any government agency or to the surrounding community and no liability to neighboring property owners for any harm allegedly caused by the facility’s emissions.
In the case, an individual who lived for many years in close proximity to a beryllium facility in Reading, Pennsylvania alleged that she developed the lung disorder chronic beryllium disease as a result of exposure to beryllium particulate emitted from the facility. In addition to suing the owners of the facility, the plaintiff also sued an engineering firm that had been retained by the owners to measure the amount of beryllium particulate being discharged by the facility into the outside air. The engineering firm’s testing showed that beryllium emissions from the facility significantly exceeded the U.S. EPA’s allowable limit and the engineering firm reported the test results to the facility’s owners.
The plaintiff alleged that the engineering firm knew that the purpose of the testing was to investigate compliance with regulatory emission standards designed to protect public health and that the engineering firm breached a duty to individuals in the community by not disclosing the test results to any government agency or to the community. In affirming the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the engineering firm, the Pennsylvania appellate court relied on decisions from courts in jurisdictions around the country and held that the engineering firm had no duty to report its test results to anyone other than the facility owners. Since there was no allegation that the engineering firm had negligently performed its contractual duty of monitoring and accurately reporting the rest results to the facility owners, the court concluded that there was no basis to impose liability on the engineering firm.