Wrongful Death Lawsuit Atmos Energy Settles. If you’re a North Texas resident, chances are you’ve heard of Atmos Energy. Atmos Energy is a Dallas-based distributor of natural gas and is one of the largest distributors in the United States.
Their customer base spans nine states and they oversee a massive intrastate natural gas pipeline system. Due to the size of their operation, it’s no surprise that Atmos Energy has reported revenues in the billions.
Overseeing such an extensive network of pipelines requires a great deal of diligence, however, and Atmos Energy has been fined numerous times for safety violations. In some cases, the company’s negligence has led to catastrophic home damage and even wrongful death.
Gas Leak Explosions–A Deadly Event
The natural gas provided by Atmos Energy is a highly flammable hydrocarbon mixture of methane and various amounts of other alkanes
This gas generates an immense amount of heat when ignited and is used for home air heating, cooking on gas-burning stovetops, and water heating. Because this gas is naturally odorless, sulfur is added to induce a “rotten egg” smell to allow early detection during leaks.
Igniting even a small amount of leaking natural gas can lead to a deadly home explosion or fire–in fact, explosions can occur when the gas-to-air ratio is as low as between 5-15% and 1.4-7.6%.
If you smell gas leaking within your home, you may be able to shut it off quickly enough to avoid an explosion. But what if an exterior pipeline near your home is damaged without your knowledge? This was, unfortunately, the case for the Dallas, Texas Rogers family in February of 2018.
A Ticking Time Bomb-Fatal Mistake
The Rogers family resided in a northwestern neighborhood in Dallas, near Love Field Airport. On the day of February 23, 2018, which will forever be remembered by the Rogers, they were carrying on with their daily routine as normal, not knowing that Atmos Energy had been probing and repairing gas leaks within the area for the past several months.
Around this time, two nearby homes had been severely damaged due to gas leaks and Atmos Energy was trying to identify and contain the leaks. They did not warn the neighborhood or turn off the gas supply, however, and this would prove to be a fatal mistake.
Gas line dented 20 years earlier
In Rogers’ neighborhood, a steel line carrying natural gas down an alleyway near their home had degraded after being dented twenty years earlier; a heavy piece of equipment struck the pipeline during the replacement of a sewer line, and for decades the pipeline remained damaged.
Over the years, a small leak was gradually introduced and natural gas migrated through the surrounding soil and into the Rogers’ house. The gas-to-air ratio slowly crept to the point of saturation, and an unknown ignition within the house caused the air to combust, resulting in a massive gas explosion.
This explosion was tragically caught on video as 12-year-old Linda “Michellita” Rogers was filming herself on her cellphone, practicing for a cheerleading competition when the horrifying incident took place. Michellita, unfortunately, died in the accident and four others were injured.
National Transportation Safety Board investigation
Following the explosion, a federal investigation took place–the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had concluded that after the first two gas explosions in the area, Atmos Energy should’ve evacuated residents and isolated the damaged lines.
In not doing so, they were negligent and ultimately responsible for the wrongful death of Michellita. In the weeks following the explosion, Atmos Energy discovered a whopping 1,260 additional damaged lines in the area; had they not been reprimanded by the NTSB, many more families could have suffered devastating injuries and damages.
Atmos Energy Gas Leaks lead to fines
As of April 2021, Atmos Energy has been ordered by the Texas Railroad Commission to pay $1.6 million in fines due to unsafe practices that led to the explosions in 2018. The energy company also settled with the Rogers family in May of 2019, and these recent fines have been called a “slap in the face” by the Rogers’ legal representation.
The Legal Aspect
Clearly, Atmos Energy was negligent in this instance–they had prior knowledge of damaged pipelines in the area, but failed to take adequate measures to protect their customers. As a result of their carelessness, a young girl was tragically killed–and although Atmos Energy rightfully settled, no amount of financial compensation can replace the life of a loved one.
If you or a loved one has been hurt due to the negligence of an energy provider, give the Dr. Shezad Malik Law Offices a call at 214-390-3189 and we’ll get you started on your road to peace of mind and fair compensation.
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