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Gas Explosion Class Action Lawsuit Results in $143M Settlement by Massachusetts Utility

Columbia Gas of Massachusetts has agreed to pay $143 million to settle class action claims over a series of gas explosions that ripped through three communities last year, killing one and destroying many homes.

The Massachusetts gad explosions occurred on September 12, 2018, affected about 10,000 homes in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, Massachusetts. Many homes were lfet uninhabitable for days, and Leonel Rondon died after an explosion flung a chimney onto his car.

The class action settlement was announced on Monday, by the Massachusetts utility’s parent company, NiSource, Inc. According to a NiSource press release, the money will go into a settlement fund to resolve the class action lawsuits resulting from the incident. The company had previously also resolved a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Rondon’s family.

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. The over-pressurized pipelines then flooded homes and businesses with gas, sparking the explosionscaused the gas to flood homes and businesses.

“What happened last September was tragic, and we will always be mindful of its impact on our customers and everyone in the communities we serve, including those represented by this settlement,” NiSource President and CEO Joe Hamrock said in the statement. “Today marks another important step forward, as we continue to fulfill our commitment to residents and businesses.”

The Agreement in Principle must still be approved by a judge. Columbia Gas already has a claims process, which was established shortly after the explosions, and is still processing claims, according to NiSource. When and if the Court approves the settlement, a settlement claims administrator will take over that process.

Residents from all three communities affected by the blasts are eligible for claims, according to the statement.

The settlement is part of a $1 billion package to address the damage to the community, which includes restoration work on homes and businesses; the installation of 18,500 new appliances, such as boilers, furnaces, stoves and dryers; temporary housing for residents who were displaced; wrongful death and personal injury settlement agreements; and an $80 million settlement to Andover, Lawrence and North Andover to pay for the municipalities’ expenses in repairing roadways damaged by the explosions.

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