Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, August 23, 2019

AmeriGas, property owner claim tenants caused injuries in suit over rental property explosion

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Mar 30, 2018


A propane company and rental home owner deny liability in a suit alleging leaking gas caused a “catastrophic explosion” at the property.

Plaintiffs Lee Irwin, Cheryl Irwin, and their minor children Austin Lancaster, Justin Irwin, Cody Irwin and James Irwin filed the third amended complaint on Feb. 15 adding a prayer for punitive damages.

According to the complaint, defendant Doris King was the owner of a rental property located at 805 Troy Street in Collinsville. Lee and Cheryl Irwin entered into a lease agreement with King to rent the residence on Sept. 22, 2014.

Prior to moving in, the Irwins allegedly entered into an agreement with Defendants AmeriGas Propane Inc. and AmeriGas Propane LP to provide propane gas and related services to the property through a propane tank located in the rear of the residence and gas service lines located throughout the residence.

The propane tank provided propane to various gas appliances within the home, including the water heater located in the basement.

The Irwins allege that at approximately 2 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2014, an AmeriGas employee partially filled the propane tank with 100 gallons of liquid propane. After failing to light the water heater, the employee “red tagged” the appliance, indicating the appliance should not be used until maintenance had been performed.

The employee allegedly informed the Irwins that he was unable to light the water heater, but he would allow propane to enter the home so that the gas stove could be used. He then left the property around 3 p.m.

Shortly after he left, “fugitive propane gas” leaked into the home. When Lee Irwin went into the basement and attempted to light the water heater at approximately 6 p.m., the fugitive gas suddenly ignited, causing a “catastrophic explosion with flames.”

As a result, the plaintiffs allege they suffered severe injuries, permanent scaring and disfigurement, have become disabled and incurred medical expenses.

They seek more than $75,000 for each count, plus punitive damages, and court costs.

Defendants AmeriGas Propane Inc. and AmeriGas Propane LP answered the third amended complaint on March 19 through attorneys Kristen Bradley and James Hultquist of Reed Smith LLP in Chicago and William Knapp of Knapp Ohl & Green in Edwardsville.

They denied liability and argue that any alleged injuries were caused by the plaintiffs’ own negligence.

“No act or conduct of AmeriGas or any agent, servant, workman or employee of AmeriGas caused the alleged incident involved in this case or caused any alleged injury, damage or loss to Plaintiffs,” the affirmative defenses state.

King answered the third amended complaint on Feb. 14 through attorney Michael Murphy of Freeark, Harvey & Mendillo PC in Belleville.

In her affirmative defenses, she argues that the plaintiffs’ own negligent was the sole proximate cause of any alleged injuries.

A related suit was filed by State Farm on behalf of King against AmeriGas, alleging the insurer has paid roughly $203,843 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed property belonging to King.

The plaintiffs are represented by Thomas Q. Keefe Jr. of Keefe, Keefe & Unsell PC in Belleville.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-183

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Organizations in this Story

Keefe Keefe & Unsell, PC Madison County Circuit Court