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Court case a reminder to stay away from HC refrigerant

Report from the West Australian newspaper
Report from the West Australian newspaper

A COURT case in Perth, Western Australia, provides a stark reminder of where exactly the buck stops when technicians or workshops are found to be negligent – and just how long these things take to get to court.

Mechanic Paul De Beaux was fined $3000 plus $690 costs for “failing to ensure a gas installation complies with prescribed requirements” following an explosion and fire that almost cost his customers their home, destroyed much of its contents and wrote off their car.

His customers are now suing him in the Supreme Court, claiming compensation for “loss and damage by fire as a result of a gas explosion caused by the defendant’s negligence, breach of contract and breach of statutory duty”.

They are also suing for personal injuries claimed to be sustained during the incident.

The explosion and blaze – which took three fire engines to extinguish – happened in January 2012, meaning it has taken almost exactly three years for the incident to end up in court.

VASA eNews understands that at the time of the incident, Mr De Beaux was working on the car in the garage of the customers’ two-storey house after receiving a complaint that the LPG installation he carried out was not working properly.

It seems gas started leaking from the car while it was being worked on by Mr De Beaux, leading to the explosion.

Vehicle air conditioning technicians tempted to retrofit R12, R134a or R1234yf systems with highly flammable hydrocarbon refrigerant be warned.

If it goes wrong and people are hurt, you could be prosecuted and then sued for damages. And your insurance provider might come after you, as VASA eNews reported last April when AAMI corporate affairs manager for personal insurance Reuben Aitchison said the following:

Reuben Aitchison
Reuben Aitchison

“If there is an accident/incident involving a car this hydrocarbon refrigerant has been installed in, and some of the damage is directly attributed to the workmanship of the installer, then an insurer, while covering the car owner, may seek to recoup losses from the installer/tradesman.”

Mr Aitchison also warned that the use of flammable materials – especially where they were not used before – may have commercial insurance and safety/risk management issues to take into account if this was not declared to the insurer when hydrocarbon refrigerant started being used.

“Best to check with your insurer,” was Mr Aitchison’s advice. “You don’t want to find out at claim time that you are not covered.”

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