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Northbrook Ny, LLC v. Lewis & Clinch

September 20, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge


Currently before the Court, in this negligence and breach-of-contract action filed by Northbrook NY LLC ("Plaintiff") against Lewis & Clinch, Inc. ("Defendant"), is Plaintiff's motion to preclude the testimony of Defendant's expert, Lee H. Sheldon P.E. ("Sheldon") or, in the alternative, to hold a Daubert hearing (Dkt. No. 20), and Defendant's cross-motion to strike the Statement of Undisputed Material Facts that Plaintiff submitted with its motion (Dkt. No. 53 at 6). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is denied as without cause, and Defendant's cross-motion is denied as moot.


A. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff filed its Complaint in this diversity-jurisdiction action on July 10, 2009. (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff subsequently filed an Amended Complaint on December 7, 2009. (Dkt. No. 12 [Plf.'s Am. Compl.].) Generally, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges as follows.

Plaintiff owns and operates a hydroelectric facility located on the Black River in Glen Park, New York, known as the Glen Park Hydroelectric Project ("the Project"). (Id. at ¶ 7.) The Project consists of three hydro turbine units, which are identified numerically as units 1, 2, and 3 ("Unit 1," "Unit 2," and "Unit 3"). (Id. at ¶ 8.) Each hydro turbine unit is powered by the controlled flow of river water through the turbine and over the turbine's runner blades. (Id.) After passing over the runner blades, the water exits through the draft tube into what is called the "tail race," and returns to the river. (Id.) Within the tail race exists a draft tube gate that may be closed to isolate the turbine from the river. (Id.)

The amount of water entering the turbine is controlled by opening, closing, or otherwise adjusting the size of the opening of the turbine's wicket gates. (Id. at ¶ 9.) The wicket gates can be turned to enlarge (open) or reduce (close) the wicket-gate opening through which water may enter the turbine. (Id.) The size of the opening of the wicket gates determines the rate at which the water flows into the turbine. (Id.)

The position of each individual wicket gate is controlled by a mechanism that includes an actuator arm and a keyless, shaft-hub locking device called a "Ringfeder." (Id. at ¶ 10.) A properly tightened Ringfeder connects the actuator arm to the wicket gate shaft in a manner that allows movement of the actuator arm to turn the wicket gate. (Id. at ¶ 11.)

In addition, a properly tightened (and correctly applied) Ringfeder also acts as a safety device. (Id. at ¶ 12.) More specifically, should the wicket gate hang up or become obstructed or immobile, the Ringfeder is designed to give or slip to prevent overload, damage, or failure of the mechanism. (Id.) The wicket gates can be closed on command to prevent any water from flowing into turbine. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

Upon shutdown of a hydro turbine unit, or during a "trip," the wicket gates are commanded to close. Because this prevents water from entering the turbine, the turbine stops rotating. (Id. at ¶ 14.) The draft tube gates do not close during normal shutdowns or trips. (Id.)

On January 9, 2008, disturbances on the National Power Grid power lines tripped all three of the Project's hydro turbine units off-line ("the incident"). (Id. at ¶ 15.) Although Units 1 and 3 shut down normally, several wicket gates for Unit 2 failed to close, which allowed water to continue to flow through the turbine. (Id. at ¶ 16.) The continuous flow of water during the shutdown allowed the turbine to continue rotating, and caused the turbine's speed to dangerously increase. (Id.) An overspeed protection device within Unit 2 sensed the increasing turbine speed, which signaled the draft tube gate to close in an effort to stop the water and prevent a potentially catastrophic overspeed condition. (Id. at¶ 17.) The operation of the overspeed device, as well as the closing of the draft tube gates, ultimately shut down Unit 2. (Id. at ¶ 18.)

The wicket gates that failed to close did so because, although the actuator arms had moved to the "closed" position, the Ringfeders were too loose and slipped. (Id. at ¶ 19.)

Following the incident, while Units 1 and 3 restarted without issue, Unit 2 failed to restart. (Id. at ¶¶ 20-22.) Unit 2 could not restart until it was dewatered; however, this required the repair of the draft tube gate seals. (Id. at ¶ 23.) These draft tube gate seals were damaged when the draft tube gate was forced closed against the excessively high volume and velocity of water flowing through the open wicket gates during the incident. (Id.) After new draft tube gate seals were fabricated and installed, Unit 2 was repaired and returned to service on March 3, 2008. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.)

Approximately four months before the incident (specifically, between September 17, 2007, and September 25, 2007), Defendant performed a variety of mechanical services on Unit 2, including inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting the wicket gates, and removing, replacing, tightening, and ...

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