Examples of Burn, Explosion, and Electric Shock Cases Handled by the Rodgers Law Firm That Have Resulted in Favorable Recoveries for Ben’s Clients

House Renter Burned In Natural Gas Leak and Fire – Utility Failed to Respond to Report of Gas Leak

Arlington, Texas

Our client rented a home in Arlington, Texas. His home was served by two utilities, a water company and a natural gas company. After he moved in, he became concerned by several months of high water bills. Both utilities owned easements in and near the street where the main water and gas lines had been laid underground. He complained to the city water utility about the high bills, and they sent a crew to his home to test the water line for leaks. The water line tested ran from the street main water line to his water meter, located near the curb of the street in front of his house. The water meter was 90 feet away from his natural gas meter, which was located near his front door.

He was told that the tests showed the water line to his meter was not leaking and that any water leak between the meter and his house was the responsibility of the landlord, not the water utility. He was also told that he might have a slow water leak somewhere underneath the house that was also the responsibility of his landlord.

He decided he would read his water meter each morning before he left for work and each night when he got home from work to see what the daily water usage was when he was not at home. That night he tried to read his water meter, but the local street light was not bright enough. Not having a flashlight, he decided he would use his cigarette lighter to illuminate his water meter.

To his surprise and horror, as soon as he lit his cigarette lighter after holding it near the meter and bending over to read the meter, he was subjected to a natural gas fed ball of flame that engulfed his upper body, severely burning his face, head, and hands.

After suit was filed, the water utility workers that had tested the water line for leaks testified that they had informed the proper natural gas utility employees that there were indications of leaking natural gas detected while inspecting the water line for water leaks. The natural gas line was laid under the street near the water line. Despite this notice, the natural gas utility employees made no effort to locate the gas leak.

The water workers also testified that it was normal for leaking natural gas to follow the path of least resistance in the underground soil, and in this case the path of least resistance was to travel along the path of the main water line to the client’s water meter near the street because the soil was not compacted as much along the water line as it was in the rest of the street area where no digging had occurred.

Worker Knocked Out of Cherry Picker by Electrified Overhead Crane – Electric Shock & Other Traumatic Injuries

Fort Worth, Texas

Our client was skilled in installing telephone cable and wiring. His employer was hired by a steel products company to install telephone cable between a warehouse and an outside building on the steel company’s premises. The work was to be performed during normal working hours while the steel company’s employees were also actively working on the premises and using an overhead crane to move very heavy steel products from an outside storage area to the inside of the warehouse.

The overhead crane was attached to and ran on a single metal rail (monorail) 1/16 of a mile in length and positioned 30 feet above ground. High voltage electricity was used to move the crane along the monorail, 440 volt, 3 phase, 60 amp current. The crane was started and stopped by a hand-held mobile remote control device controlled by steel company employee assigned to operate the crane.

The crane was constructed so that, once it was activated by the operator, it would automatically move along the full length of the monorail until the operator stopped it with the hand held remote control. The operator could easily, quickly and safely stop the crane at any location on the rail, inside or outside of the warehouse, by using the controls on the hand held remote.

The crane was of such a large size and weight that, with its moving speed and the laws of physics as applied to mass, speed and momentum, once in motion it would stay in motion even when when contacting any object with less mass, speed and momentum.

To install the cabling our client had to work in a basket attached to what is commonly termed a “cherry picker” at a height of 30 feet above ground and directly in the fixed rail path of the overhead crane.

Before our client entered the cherry picker basket to begin installing the cabling, he asked the operator of the crane to stop the crane’s movement during the wiring process. The operator told him that a “lock down” of the overhead crane would be done to prevent it from moving. Relying on this promise our client was hoisted in the air and began working on the wiring from within the basket of the cherry picker.

The operator failed to “lock down” the crane as promised. As our client was installing the telephone cable, the crane came from outside into the warehouse and began approaching the cherry picker. The noise inside the warehouse coming from the steel processing equipment was so loud that the employees inside the warehouse could not hear our client’s cries to stop the crane. The crane struck the cherry picker basket, causing the basket to tip over. Plaintiff, believing he would be spilled out of the basked and fall onto the concrete floor 30 feet below, jumped from the basket onto the crane to avoid falling; however, the electrical voltage supplying the crane with power shocked him and knocked him back into the cherry picker basket. In this process he sustained serious and permanent injuries, with medical bills totaling $45,000.

Fuel Truck Driver Injured by Fuel Storage Tank High Pressure Explosion – Violation of OSHA Regulations

Ennis, Texas

Our client was employed as a fuel tank truck driver for a fuel company. He was scheduled to make a delivery of fuel to an asphalt plant that had a 5,000 gallon above-ground storage tank approximately 25 feet long that was used to supply fuel to the asphalt burner and to refuel plant trucks.

The storage tank was subject to OSHA regulations that required that the storage tank be equipped with a relief valve which directed all vapors to an incinerator, that the tank owner ensure that the storage tank was adequately vented to prevent development of pressure, as a result of the fuel filling process, from exceeding the design pressure of the tank, and that the tank owner take steps to prevent or minimize the consequences of catastrophic releases of explosive chemicals.

American Petroleum Institute (“API”) safety standards required pressure and vacuum-relieving devices be placed on the storage tank, and that the storage tank must be regularly inspected by an “authorized inspector,” one that holds an API certification as an inspector.

The owner of the asphalt plant ignored all of these regulations and safety standards for years. The client climbed on top of the storage tank and began the process of pumping 5,000 gallons of fuel into the storage tank through a fill pipe on top of the storage tank. Without his knowledge, pressure began building inside the storage tank while the fuel was being pumped inside it.

As he was nearing completion of the fuel delivery, suddenly and without warning the excess pressure that had built-up in the tank burst out of the fill pipe. The escaping high pressure air blast threw him up into the air and off the top of the storage tank, causing him to fall 10 to 12 feet to the ground at a place 12-15 feet away from the storage tank. The explosion severely injured his neck and back.

His injuries included herniated discs at C5-6, C6-7, L4-5, and L5-S1.

Four Year Old Boy Burned by Scalding Soup Delivered By Restaurant‘s Delivery Employee

Fort Worth, Texas

Our client, a four year old boy who was a pre-kindergarden student, loved wonton soup. A local Chinese restaurant offered a free delivery service to homes in the neighborhood. On the evening of May 16 his parents phoned the restaurant and placed an order for the entire family for delivery, including wonton soup for the boy.

When the food was delivered, the mother removed the top of the styrofoam soup container and placed the soup in front of him on the dining room table. Unbeknownst to the family, the soup was exceedingly hot when poured into the styrofoam cup at the restaurant, so hot that between the time the soup was poured there and the time the lid was removed in the home, approximately 15 minutes later, the temperature had deformed the bottom of the cup so that it was unstable and more easily subject to being overturned. We know this because the parents had enough presence of mind to preserve the container the soup was delivered in.

She then left the room to take food to her husband, who was ill in bed in another room. While she was gone, our client accidentally brushed his arm against the soup container, knocking the soup into his lap. He began screaming in pain and the mother ran back into the room. She took him to the shower, undressed him and ran cold water on his lap area. He began losing skin in the burned area. She then wrapped him in a wet sheet and rushed him to the hospital.

Hospital personnel determined that he had sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns to his genital area and thighs. His bandages had to be changed 3 times a day for six weeks, a process that was excruciatingly painful. He missed the rest of the school year. The emotional trauma was so great that he had to undergo psychological counseling at various times over the next 3 years. Plastic surgery was ultimately performed to minimize the scarring on his thigh.

The boy’s grandmother contacted us a week later and, with the parents’ permission, hired us to represent the boy with the grandmother serving as the child’s legal representative because of potential conflicts of interest with the parents. The parents hired another attorney to represent them.

Burn medical references we checked stated that a child would sustain a 3rd degree burn in less than one second if the liquid was 155 degrees or higher. The severity of burns depends on the depth, area and location of the burn. Burn depth is generally categorized as first, second or third degree.

A first degree burn is superficial and has similar characteristics to a typical sun burn. The skin is red in color and sensation is intact. It is usually somewhat painful.

Second degree burns look similar to the first degree burns; however, the damage is severe enough to cause blistering of the skin and the pain is usually more intense.

In third degree burns the damage has progressed to the point of skin death. The skin is white and without sensation.

The question became: How do we prove the temperature the soup was when it was delivered by the restaurant delivery service on May 16? We hired an investigator to be present in the home on May 27 when the parents would again order the wonton soup. The investigator would video all aspects of the delivery and temperature testing of the soup.

The delivery service was videoed delivering the soup to the home. The video was continued inside the home as the delivery bag was opened, the soup container taken out, the top removed, and a heat thermometer was placed inside the soup container, the kind used to test the temperature of meat roasting in an oven.

The video of the thermometer proved that the soup had reached the house on May 27 at a temperature of 165 degrees when the container was opened. The accuracy of this video to prove that the soup temperature was dangerously high was not challenged by the defendants when presented to them later during the lawsuit.

Suit was brought against the restaurant for serving soup dangerously hot without warning the parents of the dangerously high temperature – the parents would then have known to pour the soup into another container and let it cool for a few minutes before serving it and no one need be injured.

At his deposition the restaurant owner, an engineer by training, admitted knowing that the soup was routinely poured into the container at a very high temperature, and this was deliberately done to prevent complaints that the soup was too cool when delivered to the home. The top of the delivery bag was always stapled together and a restaurant menu was stapled to the top.

He had no reasonable response when asked why he did not also merely staple a note on top of the menu warning the customer that any soup inside was very hot to prevent the need to reheat the soup and should be checked for proper serving temperature. Each warning note would cost less than five cents to print.

Suit was also brought against the styrofoam container manufacturer, a nationally known company, on the grounds that the container was a defective product and the manufacturer did not warn the restaurant that the container would deform if liquids hotter than 140 degrees were put in the container, a fact known to the manufacturer.