In 2000, the defendant bought a home in Shadyside, Ohio with his wife. The defendant was a military veteran and had become reclusive and worked odd, labor-intensive jobs. The defendant was also a collector of things. In 2009, the defendant and his wife separated, with the wife and daughter vacating the home in Shadyside, Ohio. The defendant continued residence in the home.
The defendant’s gas service
In 2014, the natural gas company cut off the defendant’s gas service due to nonpayment of bills. In October of 2015, the defendant, knowing he would require heat for the winter, contacted a propane company to install 225-gallon propane tanks outside the home. The propane company installed the tanks and did all testing required, such that there were no leaks in the propane system, as of October 2015.
The defendant was going to use the propane as a secondary source for heat as the main source of heat was a wood-burning fireplace. The wood-burning fireplace was located in the basement with a makeshift pipe that ran up and through the home, to the roof. As you can imagine, there was a lot of wood collected in the basement.
The insured and the gas explosion
In February of 2015, the insured, a young couple with two small children, purchased their first home that was located next to the defendant’s home. The insured then moved into the beautiful, brick home. Three weeks later, the defendant’s home exploded. The explosion, and subsequent fire, killed the defendant and damaged the insured’s home. The insured’s home was damaged beyond repair and had to be torn down. An investigation ensued…
The investigation found that there was an open pipe in the defendant’s gas system. Our expert opined that someone had to have removed the cap on the gas line, between the time the propane company was at the defendant’s home to the time of the explosion. The defendant’s estate could not produce any documentation to show that anyone was in the home, particularly in the basement where the gas cap was located, other than the defendant between October 2014 and March 2015.
“I smell propane…I hope I don’t blow the place up…”
Therefore, the only reasonable conclusion is that the defendant, who was known to do a lot of tinkering around the home and working on his own cars, was planning something and had removed the cap on the gas line. Of particular significance, was the fact that the defendant had sent a message to a person he was communicating with on a local dating website, where he indicated he “smelled propane and had to go see what was going on” and that he “hoped he didn’t blow the place up”.
As a result of the gas explosion, fire, and complete demolition of the insured’s home, the insurance company made payments under the insured’s policy. After two years of litigation, the defendant’s insurance carrier made no offers and the case proceeded to a jury trial. After a two and a half-day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the insured and against the defendant. Contact one of our subrogation attorneys to learn more about our experience in fire and explosion matters.