A gas explosion lawsuit that made headlines in Minnesota was settled in 2018, a year that also gave rise to state and federal initiatives for natural gas safety reforms.
Explosion lawyers who represent victims and their families support the changes on behalf of the general public and utility users of all kinds. The proposals call for speedy and detailed information about gas leaks, stronger training of gas line workers, improved industry accountability and greater transparency.
“We’re here to ensure full compensation for every single family that suffers an explosion death or burn injury,’’ attorney Fred Pritzker said. “But our society desperately needs reforms to minimize explosion deaths and burn injuries.’’
Explosion lawyer Eric Hageman, who leads the explosion and burn litigation team at Pritzker Hageman, P.A., said gas leaks, gas line ruptures, cut lines, over-pressurized lines and other failures are preventable when corporations and service providers make safety a priority. Mr. Hageman and Mr. Pritzker recently obtained a $45 million settlement in an explosion lawsuit for a man with severe burn injuries from a gas line explosion.
“Too often we see an industry that values profit over human lives,’’ Hageman said.
Explosion death lawsuit
In 2018, lawmakers, regulators and at least one district judge took stands in Texas, California and Massachusetts to save lives. The movement stemmed from gas explosions across the country, including a 2017 blast that killed two people and injured nine others when it leveled a building in Minneapolis.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) filed a preliminary explosion report in the case. Like other tragedies, investigation showed it was caused by human failure. Employees of a mechanical firm were removing a gas meter from the inside of the building and re-piping and relocating it to the outside of the building. According to documents filed with the court, the work being performed at Minnehaha Academy was part of the regional gas company’s plan to move gas meters outside for easier access. While workers were removing the existing piping, a full-flow natural gas line at pressure was opened, Pritzker Hageman said in its lawsuit. The workers were unable to mitigate the release of the gas. A second Minnesota building explosion injured a man in St. Paul in 2018.
In Massachusetts last year, Columbia Gas and NiSource Utilities fell under intense scrutiny for gas leakage that caused a series of explosions and fires in Merrimack Valley. A young man by the name of Leonel Rondon was killed in one of the blasts on Sept. 13. An initial explosion burn document filed by the NTSB said the system was overpressurized, The blasts damaged 131 structures in the city of Lawrence and the towns of Andover and North Andover. At least 21 people, including two firefighters, were transported to the hospital.
The Massachusetts explosion tragedy prompted public testimony before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation on November 26, 2018. The hearing demonstrated that high-pressure gas had been released into a low-pressure system and an NTSB official who testified said the sweeping failure was only one of seven natural gas pipeline explosions currently under review by federal agents. In every one of the cases, lives were lost, homes destroyed and communities were severely affected.
At the hearing, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, pledged to push for changes to federal pipeline safety laws.
Markey and Warren later issued a joint statement in December 2018 after a former Columbia gas employee went public with information that the company had lowered staffing in the critical oversight department despite warnings the reduction would undercut safety. “Columbia Gas prioritized savings over safety and ignored clear concerns from experienced employees, and the people of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover paid a devastating price as a result,” the two senators said.
Gas leak home explosion
In the Texas House of Representatives, Rep. Rafael Anchia chairs the International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. He went on record in 2018 as saying he wants to speed up replacement of aging pipelines that are vulnerable to leaks and pose significant threats to public safety. The Dallas Morning News in 2018 investigated chronic gas leaks, including one that killed a school girl in Anchia’s district. The newspaper’s pipeline explosion series documented that leaking natural gas lines operated by Atmos Energy in north and central Texas blew up more than two dozen homes since 2006. The fireballs killed nine people and injured at least 22.
Anchia told the newspaper he wants the state to stiffen fines for safety violations by utility companies. In addition, Texas explosion laws should be strengthened to require gas pipeline companies to report gas leaks to the public as soon as the leaks are detected. Gas companies should be required to establish an interactive searchable online map in real time that pinpoints the location of leaks and gas line repairs, Anchia has stated..
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is among the advocates for change in Texas. He said homeowners should be notified as soon as possible when a gas leak is found in their area.
Similar concerns in California led to a law change implemented last year by the California Public Utilities Commission. The first-of-a-kind leakage reduction plan applies to all gas utilities and gas storage providers in the state. The law, SB 1371, requires pipeline operators and other utilities to use best practices to find, fix and prevent leaks on their systems. The natural gas safety law states that nothing under the new statute “shall compromise or deprioritize safety as a top consideration.’’
Experienced Explosion Lawyers
Explosion and burn injuries are devastating to victims and their families. The explosion lawyers at Pritzker Hageman have won multi-million-dollar settlements for people who were severely injured in blasts caused by gas leaks and pipeline breaches, including $45 million for one client who barely survived fire and burning heat caused by a pipeline failure. Contact Fred Pritzker or Eric Hageman for a free case consultation. There is no obligation and you owe the firm nothing unless they win a recovery for you. Contact them for a free consultation about an explosion lawsuit.