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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
Attorney • (877) 377-7848

Homeowners Feel Abandoned and Pressured By Utility Company To Settle Claims After Gas Explosion

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A January 2 gas explosion damaged more than 50 homes, ranging from minor cosmetic issues to structural problems that require demolition. Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG) blamed the explosion on poor workmanship on a weld seam in the 1980s-era pipe. The gas escaped the main and went underground, where it entered the home.

Homeowners say the street looks like a warzone. Five homes have already been demolished, with driveways leading to empty lots; more may come down in coming weeks. Other homes are boarded up. On one, a mangled garage door still hangs crooked in its frame.

While ONG has settled a majority of claims, some residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed say they’re feeling forgotten, abandoned or pressured by the utility company to accept unfair settlements. One homeowner said he has been doing his best to resolve the situation with the utility company, but has reservations about signing a $55,000 global settlement. He said the settlement covers property loss and current health expenses, but signing waives any future rights to medical claims. He said ONG has threatened to reduce, amend, or pull their offer off the table if he does not meet their deadline.

In the meantime, two separate lawsuits have been filed against ONG claiming negligence led to injuries and the destruction of their homes in January. One lawsuit was filed by a man who claims that his house exploded because ONG failed to inspect, maintain and remove a dangerous condition from the home. The suit states that crews came out to check on a gas leak on Friday, January 1 then left, saying they would be back to fix it on Monday. The explosion leveled his home in the middle of the night on January 2, while he was sleeping inside. He was hospitalized with serious burns. The homeowner is seeking an amount in excess of $75,000, together with attorney fees, interest and costs of the explosion. He has improved from his injuries and has returned to work, but not before accumulating medical bills in excess of $75,000. The second lawsuit was filed by the man’s next door neighbors who allege ONG knew about the danger and could have prevented it but did not. The couple also suffered injuries as a result of the explosion.

It doesn’t take a long internet search to identify a number of recent gas explosions that have caused serious injuries, lost lives, and extensive property damage. We are talking about preventable incidents if utility companies placed more money and resources into updating aged pipelines. Until safety and human lives are put before corporate profits, any time lapses can result in devastating consequences. Safety must come first, at all costs!

Do you know how to determine if there is a gas leak in your neighborhood? I posted these tips before, but here is a reminder to my readers.

Smell: Natural gas is colorless and odorless but utility companies often add an odor to the gas so that leaks can be detected. Typically, it’s a rotten egg smell.

Hear: If you hear a roaring, hissing or whistling sound, it could be a leak.

See: Look for a white cloud or a misty fog. If you notice bubbles in standing water or vegetation that appears dead or seems to be dying for no reason, there might be a natural gas leak.

If you suspect a leak, leave your house immediately. Open windows if there is a faint odor. Avoid anything that could create a spark – this includes lights, appliances, telephone, cell phone, ringing the doorbell, or starting the car. Anything with an electric charge is a deadly risk you want to avoid.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.