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Litigation ongoing 5 years after explosion

Family members can suffer the loss of a loved one in any number of circumstances including a fatal workplace accident. A particularly catastrophic example occurred on Feb. 7, 2010 with the Middletown natural gas explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant. The blast occurring during construction and led to earthquake-like tremors that were felt 10 miles away. Six men were killed.

At the time of the explosion, workers were cleaning debris from pipelines with pressurized natural gas, a gas blow, to make the plant operational. The natural gas located an ignition source and exploded. An attorney claimed that there have been other explosions in Connecticut associated with gas blows. This procedure is now illegal.

Federal investigators later claimed that there were hundreds of violations at this site. There were $16.6 million in penalties assessed but many of these fines may have been eventually lowered.

Families for five of the fatalities settled wrongful death claims during mediation held in 2011 for amounts up to $2.5 million. A sixth wrongful death case is set for trial this fall. Kleen Energy, Inc. and O&G Industries are the defendants in these actions.

Other litigation involves personal injury cases. Thirty of these cases have been settled. In one cause of action, a Hartford Superior Court judge ruled that construction contractors at the plant should not be held strictly or automatically liable without a finding of fault because the contractor's use of high pressure natural gas to clean the fuel supply lines was appropriate in these rural and sparsely populated area around the plant. This ruling is on appeal

Additionally, 50 homeowners filed claims for loss of property value. The state Supreme Court is also hearing an appeal of workers' compensation claims filed by workers that were injured in the blast. Approximately 50 plaintiffs filed claims, pending before the state Supreme Court, for lost wages.

Families of a fatally-injured worker or other victim should understand their legal rights when they pursue their claim in mediations, settlement negotiations and court litigation.

Source: Connecticut Law Tribune, "Five years after Middletown plant explosion, dozens of claims still peding," Christian Nolan, July 10, 2015

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