Wrongful Death Following Propane Explosion

In a tragic case, a woman was killed when her relatively new condominium exploded due to a propane leak in her basement.  The force of the explosion nearly leveled the condominium and all of the gas appliances were destroyed.  Careful examination of the propane system piping revealed two important clues: there was a slight horizontal bend in the external propane gas pipe running into the unit and deformation of the interior pipe thread.  The horizontal bend indicated that the pipe had been struck from an external force.  The Fire Marshal’s investigation revealed that the landscaping company had mowed the day before.  Also, the piping in the house showed a break in the pipe threading at a point that was very thin.

The plaintiff’s liability theory was that, contrary to the State Fire Code, the exterior propane piping was not guarded against strikes and the interior propane piping was improperly threaded, which weakened the pipe and made it more susceptible to cracks from an external force.  Several experts, including a metallurgist, a fire investigator, an engineer and a code expert, were consulted and provided opinions in the case.

The plaintiff estate sued: the condominium developer, the builder, the condominium association, the company that installed the interior propane piping, the company that installed the exterior propane piping, the landscaping company, and the propane supplier.  The plaintiff pleaded a breach of warranty claim against the condominium developer for selling a condominium with a structural defect (the improperly-installed propane system).

A settlement was reached for the family prior to trial.

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