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Fires / Explosions Settlements

Kimberly K. Lester, as Administratrix of the Estate of Cornell Lester, v. Gilbert Distributing, Inc.

Type of Case: Wrongful Death

On December 6, 2000, Cornell Lester, Jr. (age 27) was burned to death while refueling his truck with diesel fuel. Mr. Lester was self-employed as a coal hauler and was survived by his wife and daughter. After investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding Mr. Lester’s death, Chris Heavens filed suit against the company that delivered diesel fuel to Mr. Lester’s diesel storage tank on his property. Testing of the diesel fuel revealed that there was gasoline contamination. Heavens’ expert theorized that without said contamination there could not have been ignition or a fire under the circumstances presented. Heavens alleged that defendant was responsible for the contamination was strictly liable for all damages to Mr. Lester’s wife and child. Defendant denied that it was responsible for the contamination and further asserted that the cause of the fire could not be determined. Result: $1,500,000 Settlement*.

Counsel: Christopher J. Heavens, Charleston, WV H. Truman Chafin, Williamson, WV


Coleman Tyree, et al. v. Southern States Corporation, Inc., et al., Nicholas County Circuit Court, Civil Action No.: 95-C-13

Type of Case: Negligent Fuel Delivery

Mr. and Mrs. Tyree were injured in a house explosion. The Tyrees had a well pump underneath the crawl space at their home. Their home was heated by propane and there was a slow leak in the propane line in the crawl space at their home. Over a period of months, the propane leak worsened and the Tyrees complained to the propane delivery company, Southern States, that their propane consumption and bills were increasing for unexplained reasons. Eventually, the Tyrees began to detect an odor of propane and they complained to Southern States about the odor. In response to the Tyrees’ complaints, Southern States had a technician check the propane tank and connecting line for leaks. When none were found, Southern States told the Tyrees that there were no leaks. Southern States took no action to trace the propane line running into the Tyrees’ home. One day when Mr. Tyree flushed the toilet at his home, it caused the electric well pump to operate and the electrical charge from the well pump motor caused an explosion that totally destroyed the Tyree’s home and injured them. Propane had collected in the crawl space due to the worsening leak. The Tyrees filed suit against Southern States alleging negligence. The Tyrees alleged that Southern States knew or should have known of the existence of a leak, notwithstanding the fact that no leak was found at the propane tank or connecting lines. The Tyrees alleged that Southern States had a duty to either trace the line to find the leak or to stop delivering propane until the leak was repaired. Southern States countered that they were not aware of the leak and not responsible for propane lines in the Tyrees’ home. Southern States stated that the inspection of internal lines required a service call and separate charges that the Tyrees never requested. Result: Confidential Settlement.

Counsel: Christopher J. Heavens, Charleston, WV

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