Plantation Gas Explosion: Who Is Liable for Damages?
On Saturday, July 6, a massive explosion destroyed a building, damaged others, and left 23 people injured in Plantation, Florida. While the investigation into the cause of the accident has only begun, several victims already have plans to sue. The only trouble is determining the cause of the accident, and liability may take months.
The gas explosion occurred at the Market on University shopping center in Plantation.
Altogether, 23 people were hurt in the accident, including a child at the childcare area of LA Fitness, and 19 were taken to area hospitals, including Westside Regional Medical Center, Plantation General Hospital, and Broward Health Medical Center. Additional victims were treated at the scene and released. By Monday, all victims were released from hospitals except one.
It’s currently believed that the blast happened at the corner of the shopping center at the vacant pizza restaurant, Pizzafire. A ruptured gas line was found after the explosion.
According to Peoples Gas, one of the nearby restaurants called them on Saturday to report smelling gas in the area. A crew was being sent to the building when the explosion happened.
Peoples Gas stated that technicians did not find natural gas leaks in their system, even though a ruptured gas pipe was found after the blast.
“It’s going to take some time to get an investigation like this completed,” said Rick Moses, chief of safety for the Division of Engineering of the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC). He added that the State Fire Marshal will help investigate the cause of the gas explosion and whether it was the responsibility of the customer or gas company.
After the Department of Transportation issued a bulletin, recommending bare steel and cast iron gas pipes be replaced as soon as possible due to corrosion and the risk of flawed inspections and leaks, the FPSC authorized Peoples Gas to charge a rider to customers to help cover the cost of replacing gas pipes. In exchange, Peoples Gas agreed to accelerate plans to replace pipes with long-lasting materials.
According to Cherie Jacobs, the spokesperson for Peoples Gas, the utility has not done any work recently near the scene that could have caused a gas leak or blast. Jacobs also stated the utility company has not replaced any gas pipes in Plantation recently.
The Public Service Commission is responsible for inspecting all of Florida’s gas systems annually with a review of company records, dangerous leaks, leak reports, and surveys of steel pipes to check for corrosion.
In 2016, Peoples Gas agreed to a $1 million fine and credits of $2 million to customers after falsifying Ocala leak inspection reports. Afterward, Peoples Gas hired external auditors to ensure compliance with the agreement.
Who May Be Liable for the Explosion?
As the investigation unfolds, two parties will be the primary focus of the accident: the customer and the gas company.
Peoples Gas will likely be a primary focus of the investigation. As the gas provider, Peoples Gas may be found responsible for the blast if they performed faulty work that led to the blast, as an example. In 2018, a Massachusetts gas company was found liable for a faulty plan to replace aging pipes that caused gas explosions in three towns.
It’s still unknown if work was being done on the gas line or the building that may have contributed to the explosion.
It’s also possible that the owner of Pizzafire may be held responsible for the explosion.
Peoples Gas is responsible for maintaining gas lines to the gas meter, but the customer is responsible for maintaining the lines from the meter to the building.
Generally, gas utility companies are responsible for the damage of a natural gas explosion when they fail to exercise due care, which includes a high degree of caution and vigilance. This high duty of care is also expected of propane gas tank manufacturers.
It isn’t just the pizza shop owner and utility company who may share liability for the accident. Gas explosions can also be the result of contractors who damaged or overlooked gas pipes, someone who improperly hooked up gas lines, or even a thief who damaged a gas pipe while attempting to steal copper pipes.
At the time of the blast, the pizza restaurant may have been undergoing renovations to prepare for new tenants. Sometimes construction work is responsible for a ruptured gas pipe that causes an explosion.
Victims of the Plantation gas explosion may have legal claims against more than one responsible party.
Injury claims involving a gas explosion can also involve premises liability, a legal concept wherein property owners owe customers and guests a reasonable duty of care to keep the property free of hazards or defects they have reason to know exist.
Plantation Gas Explosion Lawyers
Gas explosions can lead to catastrophic injuries. Even when injuries are not life-threatening, they can be life-altering, especially in the case of disfiguring and painful burns. After an accident, the most important thing is healing. When it’s time to think about how to pay for medical expenses and lost wages, it’s important to consult with a personal injury attorney to help you recover compensation for your injuries.
If you or a loved one was hurt in the Plantation shopping center explosion, it’s important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible to protect your legal rights. You may qualify to take legal action if you were in the parking lot, visiting a shop, dining, or working out near the shopping center and you were hurt in the explosion.
Gas explosions aren’t common and that means many personal injury attorneys aren’t familiar with the intricacies of these cases and particularly liability concerns. It’s important to choose an experienced personal injury attorney who can represent you during the investigation and help establish liability. This may involve an independent investigation of the accident.