Donato, Minx, Brown & Pool, P.C. (Houston, TX) is pleased to announce that Robert D. Brown and Travis Erskine obtained a defense verdict in a case styled Mary Ann Smith, et al v. Centerpoint Energy. The case revolved around a neighborhood explosion that garnered national media attention in 2007. One house was completely destroyed. Seven others were badly damaged. Plaintiffs alleged Centerpoint or its predecessors negligently installed a coupling in a gas main in front of Mrs. Smith’s home, and negligently maintained the coupling. The coupling separated due to earth movement. Gas migrated from the coupling to the Smith house, causing a massive explosion. Mrs. Smith, 69 at the time, was in the house at the time of the explosion. Despite nothing being left of her house except the fireplace and chimney, Mrs. Smith somehow avoided serious injury.
Centerpoint contended it did not install the coupling. They contended the coupling was an unauthorized repair by another contractor during the development of the subdivision in 1971. Evidence came in that Centerpoint is required to keep records of materials that go into their transmission system, and of any repairs. Centerpoint also contended the repair would not have been done by gas company employees in the same manner as the subject repair. As there was no record of installation, and the work was improperly done, Centerpoint concluded they did not install the coupling. They also contended they complied with all state and federal regulations for maintenance and monitoring of the line in question. Further, Centerpoint contended Smith was negligent for smelling gas several hours before the explosion, and not contacting the gas company. Smith denied smelling gas, but medical records contradicted this testimony.
The jury found Smith negligent, and found no negligence on the part of Centerpoint. Property damages had been stipulated to be $1,400,000.