Two dozen Massachusetts residents have filed a class action lawsuit against Columbia Gas, indicating that the company engaged in wanton and reckless disregard in its role as a utlity provider, following a series of gas explosions that rocked a Boston-area community in September 2018.
The complaint was filed last month by Yohanny Cespedes and 23 other plaintiffs in Essex Superior Court, according to a report by the Boston Herald. It joins at least 11 other home explosion lawsuits filed against Columbia Gas since the problems began on September. All of the cases are being overseen by Essex Superior Judge James F. Lang.
According to this latest Columba Gas class action lawsuit, the company failed to have a proper safety plan in place and bungled management of the gas line system. The plaintiffs indicate that some have been homeless for months, lost income and profits and are seeking damages for expenses.
At least 80 homes spontaneously erupted in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, Massachusetts that evening. The one known fatality involved Leonel Rondon, who was killed after a chimney fell onto his vehicle. Dozens more were injured.
Columbia Gas runs the natural gas system and was working on the lines at the time of the explosions. According to investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the gas pressure in the lines was 6 pounds per square inch (psi) at the time of the blasts, and it should have been only 0.5 psi.
A whistleblower from inside the company has warned that the company had just reduced the number of crew members monitoring gas pressure in the system before the explosions occurred.
Months later, about 200 families in the area still do not have gas service restored. The company has paid out more than $77 million in claims to date, and has restored gas to 7,500 customers and replaced 43.5 miles of gas lines.
The second phase of the restoration project begins this spring, and will involve the replacement of about 900 boilers and continuing to bring damaged homes up to code.