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ARTICLE ID 195086

$________ CONFIDENTIAL Utility Negligence – Failure of utility company to act in a timely manner when residents complain of potential gas leak – Property damage claims for homes damaged by gas explosion

Withheld County, MA

In this negligence matter, the plaintiff homeowners allege that the defendant utility company was negligent in failing to act in a timely manner on residents’ complaints of a potential gas leak. As a result, residents suffered damages when their homes were damaged by a gas explosion occurring in a nearby home. The defendant denied that there was any delay or negligence on its part in responding to residents’ calls.

On December 17, ________, a person intending to commit suicide disconnected the gas line that serviced the home he was in, and poured large amounts of gasoline in the house, intending to cause an explosion. Prior to any explosion, residents called the defendant natural gas utility company and reported a strong smell of gas and a loud hissing sound, which was unbeknownst to the caller coming from the uncoupled gas line to the home. The defendant’s dispatcher played down the urgency of the residents’ call, with a further delay in getting a technician that could respond to the scene. The first technician did not respond in a timely manner, which resulted in the dispatcher waiting for almost another 15 minutes before paging a second technician. When the technician arrived on the scene, it had been approximately 45 minutes since the call reporting a strong smell of gas, and after the home had exploded. The explosion was so forceful that it resulted in damage to the surrounding homes. The plaintiffs surrounding homeowners brought suit against the utility company alleging negligence for its failure to respond to the complaints of gas in a timely manner, and seeking damages for repairs not covered by their homeowners’ insurance policies. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant utility company should have contacted first responders to get to the scene immediately, investigate, and if necessary, secure the area and prevent the explosion that damaged their homes.

The defendant denied any wrongdoing and maintained that its response complied with applicable laws and company guidelines.The parties agreed to submit the plaintiffs’ claims to mediation. Despite a failure to mediate the plaintiffs’ claims, the parties agreed to a confidential settlement of $________ to resolve the suit prior to a trial in this matter.

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