Carro, Carro & Mitchell LLP obtained a one million dollar settlement on behalf of two New York City firefighters injured in a Con Ed gas explosion.
We often take for granted the safe delivery of utility services to our homes – electricity for our lights, gas for heating and to cook. But when the equipment that delivers those services to our homes is not properly inspected, repaired or maintained, the results can be catastrophic.
Our clients were two FDNY officers, a chief and a captain. They were responding to a call about the odor of gas in an apartment building. The officers entered the basement attempting to find the source of the odor. A strong smell of gas was coming from behind an electric service panel. As one of the officers began to open the cover of the service box, there was a fiery explosion which injured both of them.
By meticulously examining Con Edison’s inspection, maintenance, repair and prior complaint records, we discovered that there had been repeated problems with their equipment in the manhole directly in front of the building. Tenants in the building had made several prior complaints about gas odors. We consulted with experts in the cause and origin of gas-
related fires and explosions and with their expertise were able to show that that explosive gas leaked from the faulty equipment in the manhole into the basement of the building. The gas accumulated in the basement and was ignited by a spark when the fire officer opened the cover of the electric service box.
Con Edison and the building owner contributed to the one million dollar settlement.
The law imposes a duty on all utility companies, including Con Edison, to safely deliver their services. In New York City, that’s a big job. The Con Edison gas system has nearly 7,200 miles of pipe. Many of the pipes are more than 80 years old. If they are not properly inspected, maintained, repaired or replaced when necessary, the results can be tragic:
● In 1989, a steam pipe explosion in Manhattan killed three and injured 24.
● In 2007, an 83 year old cast iron steam pipe failed and the explosion killed one person and injured 40.
● Also in 2007, the day before Thanksgiving, a Queens woman was fatally burned when an 80 year old gas main ruptured.
Most recently, on March 12, two apartment buildings in East Harlem were destroyed following reports of a gas leak. As of the time this article is being written, there are eight known dead, and several people still unaccounted for. Some news reports say the residents smelled the odor of gas before the blast, but a Con Edison spokesperson said they did not receive a call alerting them until about 20 minutes before the explosion.
If you smell gas in your home or apartment, Con Edison and the FDNY advise that you and anyone else in the home leave immediately. Do not stop to make any calls from inside your home, or to turn off lights or appliances. This could generate a spark and ignite an explosion if there is a concentration of gas anywhere from 5 to 15%. After you are outside and a safe distance away, call 911 and then Con Edison to report the odor of gas.
We fight for justice for all of our clients, but we are particularly proud of our long record of successfully representing members of the FDNY here at Carro, Carro & Mitchell LLP. Partner Bart Mitchell is the son and grandson of FDNY fire officers and has authored numerous articles and columns on lawsuits arising from injuries on the fire ground. He has served as a volunteer firefighter and has been successfully representing injured firefighters for thirty years.