In 2010, a Deno Electric employee, William Nichols, died in a propane gas explosion in Norfolk while working at the Village at River’s Edge condominium complex. His family filed a wrongful death suit against EnergyUSA Propane and Smolinsky Brothers Plumbing and Heating.
The lawsuit claimed that EnergyUSA negligently under-filled a new propane tank causing the chemical odorant to fade. This made the leaking propane gas odorless and undetectable by workers.The suit also claimed that Smolinsky Brothers Plumbing and Heating failed to tighten a connection to the furnace, which enabled the undetectable propane gas to leak, which in turn caused the explosion.
The family has settled the lawsuit for $7.5 million. Two other people at the site suffered serious injuries and settled earlier this month, the three settlements combined total $22.5 million.
The family’s attorney said, “Nichols was ‘crushed by smoldering debris, enveloped in noxious smoke and suffering with burns over 80 percent of his body’ and ‘he pled with his rescuers to say goodbye to his fiancé and other family members; He was removed from the explosion site alive and transported by a MedFlight team to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he died that evening from massive burn and explosion injuries.’
There was controversy over EnergyUSA’s filling of the tank. There was a warning level on the tank prompting the company to fill it completely, but EnergyUSA ctated that they only filled it twenty percent full because no gas meter had been installed at the construction site yet. Industry standards call for filling tanks at least eighty percent to prevent the odorant from fading.
The family’s lawyer also said, “This explosion happened because EnergyUSA violated clear warnings and safety standards. It was predictable that the odorant would fade, causing a severe explosion hazard. EnergyUSA violated a warning printed prominently on the inside cover of the propane tank which they owned, installed and, regrettably, only partially filled.”
Because of this explosion, it is expected that the state will introduce new safety regulations this fall and also increase safety training for propane delivery personnel..
Pulgini & Norton, LLP attorneys have handled workers’ compensation claims for over 25 years in and around Boston and its surrounding areas. If you or a family member has been injured at work and would like to seek legal assistance, please contact us at (781) 843-2200 or (888) 344-2046 or email us.
$7.5M settlement in deadly Mass. propane explosion, BostonHerald.com, July 9, 2012
Norfolk blast suit settled, The Sun Chronicle, July 10, 2012
Family of 2010 Norfolk propane explosion victim settles, Wicked Local, July 17, 2012