ASME vs. Hydrolevel Case
In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court, was held that American Society of Mechanical Engineers (a nonprofit association) was responsible for treble damages under the Sherman Act. In 1971, the engineering firm of McDonnell and Miller requested an interpretation of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code from the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Codes Committee. Although initially undisclosed by them, McDonnell and Miller used the response to their inquiry to show that a boiler control device competitor, the Hydrolevel Corp., was selling a device not in compliance with the ASME BPV Code. Unknown to ASME's leadership, T.R. Hardin, chairman of the ASME committee and employee of the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company in Connecticut, wrote the original response to McDonnell and Miller's inquiry. McDonnell and Miller salesmen used ASME’s interpretation as proof of Hydrolevel's disagreement. Subsequently, Hydrolevel never acquired sufficient market penetration for sustaining business, and eventually went bankrupt. As a result, Hydrolevel sued McDonnell and Miller, the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company and ASME on the basis of loss of trade. The Hydrolevel’s laywers argued that two ASME subcommittee members acted not only in the self-interest of their companies, but also in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. McDonnell and Miller and the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company settled out of court, but the litigation against ASME went all the way to the Supreme Court where, on a 6-3 decision, the Court found in favor of Hydrolevel on the liability issue. Following a damages retrial, the case was settled for $4.75 million in favor of Hydrolevel. The important lesson from the ASME vs. Hydrolevel case is that each individual's actions has an influence on the profession as a whole. Therefore, engineers must be fully aware of their roles as professionals.
References: "FindLaw | Cases and Codes." FindLaw | Cases and Codes. N.p., 2013. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.
OpenJurist. "OpenJurist." 635 F2d 118 Hydrolevel Corporation v. American Society of Mechanical Engineers Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.
Texas A&M University. "ASME vs Hydrolevel." ENGINEERING.com. The Department of Philosophy and Department of Mechanical Engineering, 13 Oct. 2006. Web. 19 Feb. 2013
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