CASE STUDY: FATAL EXPLOSION CASE

Daley Mohan Groble guides propane client to successful conclusion of fatal explosion case.

SITUATION

  • Case arose from catastrophic propane explosion at rural residence, resulting in one fatality and one serious burn injury
  • Plaintiffs alleged that propane delivered to the residence was not properly odorized, resulting in leak being undetected
  • Our client was a wholesale marketer/broker in the chain of distribution to the plaintiffs’ retail supplier, and was the target defendant when we were brought into the case

KEY FACTS

  • Plaintiff and co-defendant conducted propane sample analysis before our client was brought into the case, which showed no detectible odorant 
  • Purchase records showed that our client was the marketer/broker for both of the gas plants that shipped propane to plaintiffs’ retail supplier prior to the accident
  • Plaintiffs focused on odorization claim due to absence of evidence identifying cause of leak.
  • Plaintiffs’ retail supplier had minimal insurance coverage
  • Plaintiffs’ pre-mediation settlement demand was $25 million

OUR APPROACH

  • We established credibility with plaintiffs and co-defendants based on extensive experience and expertise in gas explosion issues
  • We identified flaws in handling and analysis of propane samples, raising doubt as to validity of “no odorant” conclusion
  • Our experts conducted supplemental inspections of explosion scene and physical evidence, and identified potential leak source at recalled gas valve
  • We asserted contractual indemnity claims against upstream gas plants and downstream wholesalers to guard against co-defendants settling out in collusive manner
  • Plaintiffs gradually shifted focus from propane odorization claim to leaking gas valve claim, adding multiple new defendants
  • Our client took hard line at mediation
  • After close of discovery, we filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that our client owed no duty to plaintiffs

RESULTS

  • Plaintiffs entered individual settlements with defendants after unsuccessful mediation, totaling over $7 million
  • Our client’s settlement was less than the cost of completing the briefing and argument of our pending summary judgment motion
  • Our client’s settlement was the lowest of all defendants - approximately one-fifth of the next-lowest settlement

DMG KEYS TO SUCCESS

  • We used our deep knowledge of the subject area to drive the direction of the investigation, without the need to “turn” on co-defendants
  • We formulated a complete case strategy and stuck to it through pleading, discovery and settlement stages