Recently, UGI Utilities agreed to pay a $500,000 fine to the victims of a 2011 gas explosion in Allentown, Pennsylvania that killed five people. The families of the victims had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company, claiming that the company did not adequately maintain its cast iron mains in the gas pipeline. As a result a gas explosion flattened two nearby houses and set a whole row of houses on fire.
The explosion was traced to a crack in a cast iron main, and workers toiled for twelve hours to get to the pipeline and seal off the flow of gas by sealing the crack with foam. As part of the settlement agreement, the utility company agreed to replace the cast-iron pipelines every fourteen years and to expand monitoring and testing. The pipelines will eventually be replaced with new lines made of high-density plastic and coated steel.
This case is an example of a wrongful death due to the negligence of a company. The utility line had a duty of ordinary care towards the community of Allentown to make its infrastructure safe and to guard against potential accidents of this kind. But the company breached the duty by allowing the pipelines to fall into disrepair, which led to the explosion. The company’s negligence caused five people to lose their lives.
Wrongful death suits, whether they are brought in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, require that a personal representative of the victims, usually an attorney or a family member, be appointed to represent the victim’s estate, and that this representative bring the lawsuit. This helps ensure that the interests of the victim’s estate are properly looked after, and the claims of the victim are brought before the court in a proper fashion.
Anyone affected by the wrongful death of a loved one is entitled to bring a wrongful death suit against the responsible party. They are entitled to a personal injury judgment against the defendant, and to monetary compensation.
Source: New Jersey Herald, “Utility agrees to pay $500,000 fine in fatal Pa. blast,” Feb. 25, 2013