Seven suits filed against Columbia Gas for December gas line explosion

By Kyla Asbury | Aug 16, 2013


CHARLESTON - Seven lawsuits have been filed against Columbia Gas Transmission LLC for the natural gas pipeline explosion that occurred in December.

NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage Company; NiSource Midstream Services LLC; NiSource Energy Ventures LLC; NiSource Corporate Services Company; William Christian; Jack Whitmire Jr.; Mitchell G. Thomas; Daniel Herpin; and John Does 1 through 10 were also named as defendants in the suit.

On Dec. 11, Tina White, administratrix of the Estate of Virginia Bailes, deceased; Lorie Estep; Dorma Harrison, by and through her attorney-in-fact Sharon Frame; Margaret Johnson; Amy McMillion, individually and as parent and guardian of Jacob Stevens and Russell McClanahan, minors; Shelby McMillion; and Darell Sigmon were all injured due to a natural gas pipeline of the defendants' rupturing and exploding, according to seven complaints filed July 29 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

At the time of the explosion, Bailes was driving toward her home; Estep and Sigmon were in a home they rented from Harrison; and Shelby McMillion, Amy McMillion and Johnson were in their homes, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim they were displaced from their homes because of the explosion.

The defendants negligently failed to inspect, maintain, operate, repair and/or monitor the gas transmission pipelines at issue and failed to ensure that the gas transmission lines were safe for use and had not corroded to the point of failure, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim as a result of the defendants' negligence, they suffered mental anguish, anxiety, fear, stress, embarrassment, annoyance, aggravation, inconvenience, personal property damage and loss of use of personal property.

The defendants were or should have been aware of the extensive corrosion existing on the gas transmission pipeline and the 70 percent reduction of its original thickness since it was originally installed in 1967, according to the suits.

The plaintiffs claim despite the knowledge, in conscious disregard for the safety of the public, for many years the defendants failed and/or refused to perform the necessary inspections to determine the condition of the pipeline and failed and/or refused to make necessary repairs or replacement of the gas transmission pipeline.

No one was killed in the explosion and fire. However, several people were treated for smoke inhalation, according to an article by the Charleston Gazette. Four homes were destroyed and five others were damaged in the blast.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. They are being represented by Robert B. Warner, Truman C. Griffith and Lynnette Simon Marshall of Warner Law Offices PLLC.

The cases have been assigned to circuit judges Charles E. King, Louis H. Bloom, James C. Stucky and Carrie Webster.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 13-C-1426, 13-C-1427, 13-C-1428, 13-C-1429, 13-C-1430, 13-C-1431, 13-C-1432

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