The reason you and your family did not smell propane gas (actually the added ethyl mercaptan) before the house exploded was most likely because of one or both of the following:
- the propane was under-odorized (not enough ethyl mercaptan added);
- there was “odor fade.”
Propane, liquid petroleum gas (LP-gas), is odorless and must, by law, be odorized so that people will be able to detect a gas leak by smell. The odorant generally used is ethyl mercaptan, which smells like rotten eggs.
“Odor fade” (no more rotten egg smell) happens when there is either:
- oxidation of ethyl mercaptan caused by iron oxide in a storage tank; or
- absorption into the lining of the tank.
The oxidation and absorption is faster with a new tank, and slows down after several fillings. Because of the risk of odorant fade, the following must be done:
- When a tank is filled, particularly a new tank, it must be filled to about 80%;
- The propane must not be allowed to sit unused.
$10 Million for Man Who Could Not Smell Propane Leak
Our law firm recently won $10 million for a man who did not smell a propane leak before a house exploded. Our client was severely burned in the explosion (third-degree burns on about 60% of his body).
When attorneys Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman got the case, they found that the new tank had only been filled to 30% (instead of 80%) and that the propane was allowed to sit unused, increasing the risk of odorant fade. Fred and Eric argued that their client could not smell the LP gas around him as he struck a match. Although the specific cause of the propane leak was not found, they argued that the gas company was responsible for the explosion and our client’s injuries because the company under-filled the tank.
Questions That Need Answers
The negligence of a gas company can lead to severe injuries and wrongful death. When this happens, it is important to vigorously pursue the truth.
- Was the correct amount of ethyl mercaptan added to the LP gas?
- How was the LP transported and stored prior to being used to fill the tank that exploded?
- What kind of tank was it and how old was it?
- Was the tank examined to for problems that could lead to a leak?
- How was the tank filled?
- How much propane was put into the tank?
- How much training did the technician who filled the tank have?
- How long had it been since the last filling?
- Were the valves working correctly?
- Was the tank serviced enough and carefully?
- At any time did someone call the company about a strange odor?
These are just a few of the multitude of questions that need answers when someone is critically burned in a house explosion.
For more information about a lawsuit, read “Can I Sue for a House Explosion?“