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Wrongful death: Allentown gas explosion kills 5, nets 2 lawsuits

These blogs are posted on behalf of Seidel, Cohen, Hof & Reid, LLC, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the firm or its attorneys. The information presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

A horrific gas explosion on Feb. 9 of last year decimated an entire block of homes and killed five people in Allentown. It also engendered at least two wrongful death lawsuits against UGI Utilities, Inc. (UGI).

It has been suspected that a rupture in a UGI gas main was the cause of the fatal accident. One of the lawsuits was brought by a Norristown resident who lost his 69-year-old mother, 16-year-old daughter and 4-month-old grandson in the devastating explosion. The man, who recently moved from Allentown, has now come forward to complain that the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is dragging its heels in its now 18 month long investigation.

His lawsuit against UGI is said to be in the discovery phase. He has been described as very disappointed that the PUC has not completed its investigative work. Understandably, the Commission's findings could be helpful to the man's pursuit of justice. A wrongful death action typically alleges negligence on the part of a defendant in a manner that is claimed to have caused or contributed to the fatality. Here, it is alleged UGI failed to follow up on a warning from the National Transportation Safety Board dating as far back as 1992 and advising that corroded natural gas piping was in need of repair.

A separate wrongful death claim brought on behalf of the other two victims, a 79-year-old husband and his 78-year-old wife, was settled for an undisclosed sum in June, 2011. The agreement to settle included a proviso that its terms not be disclosed. These types of provisions are common in settlements of this nature.

It remains to be seen what will come of the PUC investigations, and the Commission refused to give a timetable for completion. It did indicate that lab testing had been done on piping and soil samples from the site. Apparently, the PUC requested a second opinion regarding those results, though it is not known what they found. In the meantime, the remaining wrongful death action works its way through the Pennsylvania civil court system, seeking to hold those parties deemed responsible for the unspeakable tragedy fully accountable for any claimed fatal errors.

Source: lehighvalleylive.com, "Allentown blast victim: Public Utility Commission dragging on investigation into blast's cause," Nick Falsone, June 9, 2012

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