High Exposure Premises Liability Case Involving Natural Gas Explosion Resolved

August 23, 2017

Patton & Ryan was called to defend an apartment complex owner and its related property management company in connection with an explosion and fire caused by a natural gas leak in an apartment that severely injured two teenage boys.

The teenage boys were guests of the tenant who had resided in the apartment for several years. Prior to the fire, the tenant’s natural gas service had been turned off for several weeks due to non-payment. After the tenant paid her gas bill, a service technician for the local gas company restarted gas service at the apartment a day before the fire. The gas service technician observed that there was an uncapped gas line for a gas-operated clothes dryer while in the apartment. The tenant did not have a clothes dryer connected to the line. The technician did not place a cap on the line before turning gas service on despite his employer’s requirements that unused gas lines were to be capped prior to establishing gas service.

The valve to the unused gas line was accidentally opened by someone within the apartment sometime after gas service was reinstated. Despite being aware of the odor of natural gas throughout the apartment the day before the fire, the tenant admitted that she left the two teens and her four young children in the apartment and went to work without informing anyone about the odor. After the tenant’s children left for school, it is believed that gas was ignited when one of the teens turned on the range to begin cooking.

The teenage boys suffered extensive second and third-degree burns, respiratory failure, and underwent multiple surgeries, including burn debridement, skin grafting, and tracheostomy. The burns caused significant keloid scarring and other deformities. Plaintiffs’ past medical damages totaled more than $5 million with claimed future medical damages exceeding $7.5 million. Plaintiffs’ settlement demand was $80 million against all defendants.

The critical issue in the case was who should have prevented the fire. Plaintiffs contended that the apartment defendants should have discovered the uncapped gas line during routine maintenance inspections. Plaintiffs alleged that the failure to conduct the routine maintenance inspections of the apartment eventually contributed to the explosion and fire.

Over the course of discovery, including more than 50 depositions, Patton & Ryan attorneys were able to confirm that the gas service technician failed to abide by his company’s policies with respect to capping unused gas lines before initializing gas service. Cementing this information allowed for the preparation of a Motion for Summary Judgment, which motivated Plaintiffs to resolve the matter at mediation.

Once again, Patton & Ryan’s attorneys employed their proactive and aggressive defense tactics and as a result of the thorough investigation, diligent representation, and vigorous research, the case against the apartment complex owner and management company was resolved for a fraction of Plaintiffs’ $80 million demand.

Patton & Ryan routinely defends commercial property owners and management companies and is ready to defend your company in any jurisdiction at any time.