Jury Awards $19.8 Million in Gas Explosion Case

Hopefully, this sends a message loud and clear to the Southern California Gas Company that the safety of their customers should be of utmost priority. The company, which sometimes goes by the nickname, “SoCalGas” was found to be responsible for a horrific accident that seriously injured a man in his San Gabriel, California home on January 19, 2011. Pengxuan Diao, 24, sustained severe second and third degree burns on over 20 percent of his body from a gas explosion caused by a leak on his property.

Court documents allege a Southern California Gas Company employee came to the property on which Pengxuan Diao lives on January 19, 2011 to work on gas lines in the area when he made a careless mistake. The worker disobeyed company safety guidelines and opened a gas valve leading to Mr. Diao’s house. The nearly-fatal mistake occurred when the employee left the property without properly checking the line for leaks and damage, per company policy. That mistake would prove costly, both in human life and in monetary losses for SoCalGas.

There was, in fact, a leak in the line as it connected to Mr. Diao’s home on the property. While the victim was sleeping, his room in the back of the house filled up with an extremely potent amount of natural gas. Court documents reveal that attorneys for both sides agreed that “[the gas in the room] could be ignited by virtually anything – including the flipping of a light switch or the opening of a door,” according to an article by Larry Bodine for the National Trial Lawyers. In a sense, Pengxuan Diao was trapped in his own room by an invisible, but deadly chemical. When he woke up, Mr. Diao lit a cigarette which ignited the fumes saturating the room and an explosion occurred.

Mr. Diao suffered extensive second and third degree burns on a significant portion of his body after his skin ignited as a result of the explosion. He spent two weeks in intensive care at an area hospital and endured excruciatingly painful procedures such as skin grafts and debridement. In addition, Pengxuan sustained a traumatic brain injury and suffers long-lasting effects from that injury in combination with painful and restrictive scarring.

The Southern California Gas Company initially did not accept fault for the accident and did not offer to settle at any time before the trial, according to Larry Bodine from the National Trial Lawyers. However, as the trial proceeded, SoCalGas eventually admitted limited blame for the accident and stated they should only pay Mr. Diao $1,400,000 after attempting to discredit the severity of his injuries.

The jury did not see it that way and awarded Pengxuan Diao a staggering $19.8 million. This is the largest verdict against Southern California Gas Company in the history of the company, and it came as quite a shock to executives. The breakdown includes “$17,000,000 for past and future pain and suffering, $2,129,718 for past and future medical expenses, and $657,100 for past and future loss of earnings,” per Larry Bodine.

Attorney Kevin Boyle stated about the verdict, “because of the jury’s verdict, Mr. Diao will now be able to get the long term care and treatment that he needs. We hope that the verdict will also serve as a lesson to Southern California Gas Company and improve the company’s training of employees, especially on policies that impact the public safety.”

Safety should be the number one priority on any job site, especially those involving dangerous flammable materials such as natural gas. After an accident, victims and their families are left to deal with emotional and physical injuries while sustaining a sizeable financial burden in medical bills and lost wages. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a personal injury or wrongful death, Altman & Altman can help. Our dedicated team of Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorneys has decades of experience successful handling personal injury and wrongful death cases. We understand the frustrations and challenges faced by victims and will work every option to ensure your family receives the compensation you deserve.

At the law offices of Altman & Altman, we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – including nights and weekends to answer any questions regarding your case. Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation.

Read the full article from The National Trail Lawyers

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