Lawsuit Over Natural Gas Explosion Results in $1.5M Verdict

The family of a boy who was badly burned by a natural gas explosion has been awarded $1.5 million by a West Virginia jury. 

The decision was issued at the end of September in a lawsuit brought by the parents of Stevie Owens, who suffered third-degree burns over 80% of his body after a natural gas explosion that occurred in an apartment in the Parsons building in Tucker County, West Virginia in 2006. He has been permanently scarred by the injuries.

According to the natural gas explosion lawsuit, Stevie Owens was in the kitchen on October 17, 2006, making a milkshake when he heard a loud noise and turned and saw a wall of fire overtake him. On fire and trapped in the kitchen, he called out to his mother, Cheri Wilson, for help. Jonathan Wilson was awakened by the blast and a flaming wall falling on top of him. He rushed to put the fire out with a couch cushion, suffering burns that required skin grafts to his hands and feet.

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Owens spent three months in Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he underwent 23 surgeries and feared to leave the hospital due to the extensiveness of his burn scars.

According to a report in the West Virginia Record, defense attorneys agreed that Owens deserved compensation for his injuries but urged them to show restraint since nobody was killed and Owens is still fully functional. The lawsuit originally sought $50 million.

The burn injury lawsuit was filed in Tucker Circuit Court by Jonathan and Cheri Wilson against Mountaineer Gas Co. and the owners of the Parson building; Russell and Cindy Barkley. The Tucker County jury awarded Owens $1,279,090, $96,532 to Jonathan Wilson and $150,000 to Cheri Wilson. 

Common causes of natural gas explosions in homes are faulty storage or poor maintenance of gas service equipment that may lead to leaks that can ignite. Faulty installation of gas lines, meters or appliances, defective gas meters, lines, control valves, connectors, and poor maintenance by the gas company, repair technicians, sellers, manufacturers and distributors of appliances may all contribute to potential explosions.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), natural gas and propane gas home fires between 2000 and 2004 resulted in 66 deaths and over 400 injuries. On average, NFPA estimates that there are about 2,410 natural gas home fires and 1,390 propane gas fires every year.

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