Kelly Holleran Feb. 26, 2013, 8:55am

Two Millstadt greenhouse employees have filed suit against the owners of an anhydrous ammonia nurse tank that they claim leaked ammonia onto land occupied by the greenhouse, causing them to sustain serious respiratory injuries.

Leonardus Koene and Amy Morris claim they were working at N.G. Heimos Greenhouses on May 12 when they were informed that there was a smell of ammonia in the air. Koene and Morris attempted to clear workers from the property when Koene witnessed gas emitted from the anhydrous ammonia tank located on defendants Paul and Ruth Hermanns’ property, according to the complaint filed Jan. 30 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

While clearing workers from N.G. Heimos, both Koene and Morris were exposed to the anhydrous ammonia gas that had spread from the tank, the suit states.

Because of their exposure to the gas, Koene and Morris suffered serious and permanent injuries, incurred medical costs, lost wages and suffered mental anguish and emotional distress, the complaint says.

Koene was particularly affected, saying he suffered extensive injuries to his lungs and airways that have caused him to experience shortness of breath, pain in his chest, a sore throat, regular nosebleeds, headaches, weakness, constant fatigue, exhaustion, irritability and the feeling of being choked. He claims he can no longer participate in activities he once enjoyed, such as gardening, landscaping, home improvement and exercise.

The tank was located at 6233 Werner Rd. in Millstadt while N.G. Heimos was located at 6627 State Route 158 in Millstadt, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs say defendant Chemi-Trol, which manufactured the tank, is strictly liable for the damages because the tank was defective when it was put to an expected use and the tank’s emergency shut-off system and leak detection system were not safe and were defectively designed.

They also allege negligence against Chemi-Trol, saying it failed to inspect the tank, failed to replace the emergency shut-off system, failed to inspect the emergency shut-off system for defects, failed to test the tank to ensure its safety and failed to warn users of the dangers of the tank.

In addition to Chemi-Trol, the plaintiffs name Parker-Hannifin as a defendant. Parker-Hannifin had manufactured the hose that connected the tank to the spreader being used at the time of the incident.

Koene and Morris allege strict liability against Parker-Hannifin, saying the company negligently designed the hose, which had a propensity to fail suddenly; designed an inadequate and unsafe hose; defectively designed the hose, which allowed it to leak and to disconnect from the tank; and failed to incorporate a check valve coupling to avoid release of the ammonia.

Parker-Hannifin negligently failed to inspect the subject hose, failed to replace a hose that was known to unexpectedly leak, failed to inspect the hose to make sure it was safe and failed to warn users of the dangerous propensities of the hose, according to the complaint.

Handy Fertilizers, which owned the tank in question, is accused of negligence for its alleged failure to maintain the tank, the suit states.

In addition, Paul and Ruth Hermann, who owned the property on which the tank was placed, failed to ensure that the tank and hose were properly coupled and secured, failed to ensure the tank was properly shut off, failed to warn people of the threat to the ammonia and failed to contact legal authorities to warn of the leaking tank, the complaint says.

In their complaints, Koene and Morris are seeking an unspecified judgment, plus pre-judgment interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Scott L. Kolker of Kolker and Germeroth in Clayton and Daniel T. DeFeo and Angela G. Cahill of The DeFeo Law Firm in Lexington, Mo., will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case numbers: 13-L-52 and 13-L-53.

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