Nine people are suing NiSource and its subsidiary Columbia Gas. The lawsuit also names individuals who are company employees quoted in a National Transportation Safety Board report released in June of this year.
Those employees are William Christian, director of gas control for NiSource's Columbia Natural Gas Transmission subsidiary; Jack Whitmire Jr. and Mitchell G. Thomas, corrosion technicians or specialists for Columbia Transmission; and Daniel Herpin, the manager of corrosion for Columbia Transmission.
Seven complaints have been filed in Kanawha County Court in response to the gas well explosion that rocked Sissonville in December 2012, setting several homes on fire and forcing officials to issue a shelter in place for local residents. The lawsuit claims that the defendants didn't take proper safety precautions and maintenance measures, and allege that the companies failed to adequately train employees in safety inspection in regard to maintaining the gas transmission lines.
Columbia Gas released a statement in response to the lawsuit, stating that Columbia took immediate action following the incident in Sissonville to ensure that basic essentials, including temporary housing, food, and transportation were provided to the affected community. However, Sissonville residents weren’t without injuries, both physical and emotional, in addition to the damage to their homes and personal property.
All of the lawsuits claim the residents suffered mental anguish, anxiety, humiliation, fear and stress, among other things. They lost personal property and their homes are diminished in value, the suit states. Plaintiffs also are asking for an award of punitive damages.
One plaintiff, Tina White, filed suit on behalf of her mother, Virginia Bailes. Her lawsuit claims Bailes died on March 24 "as a result of health conditions which were created, exacerbated and/or compounded by the stress and mental anguish" from the incident. Plaintiff Margaret Johnson's lawsuit states she was sitting in her home at 7345 Sissonville Drive when the explosion occurred. Johnson blistered her feet when fleeing her home due to the heat from the blast and injured her hand trying to escape in her car, the suit states.
However, in its annual report, NiSource wrote about the Sissonville incident that "Columbia Transmission believes any costs associated with damages, injuries, and other losses related to this incident are substantially covered by insurance. Any amounts not covered by insurance are not expected to have a material impact on NiSource's consolidated financial statements."
While the lawsuit aims to obtain reasonable compensation for those affected by the explosion it also aims to encourage these natural gas companies to make the necessary changes so that these events don’t happen in WV again.
Personal injury and wrongful death cases have strict timelines for filing claims and it is important not to let these pass by. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured, contact the West Virginia Accident Attorneys of Colombo Law at 304-599-4229.
We represent accident victims in Fairmont, Clarksburg, Morgantown, and throughout North Central West Virginia.
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