It is a tragic fact that companies sometimes choose to decrease costs at the expense of public safety. In an effort to lower their bottom line, they often cut corners or ignore federal safety regulations in a manner that leads to innocent victims paying the ultimate price. Utility company gas explosions one can cause massive amounts of property damage, catastrophic injuries and death. Recently, a federal grand jury handed down a second, more punitive indictment against a utility company in another state. This indictment stems from a 2010 gas explosion and fire that killed 8 individuals and injured another 53. It could cost the company as much as a staggering $3.8 billion in total federal and state fines.
That deadly gas explosion and fire reportedly resulted from the company’s failure to follow federal regulations governing inspections required to be conducted after pressure surges in gas supply lines occur. In addition to injuring and killing so many area residents, the explosion and fire also destroyed 38 homes and caused damage to 70 others.
The utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric, now stands accused of twice as many violations as the previous indictment contained. Twenty-eight counts of regulatory infractions have been leveled against PG&E. The government claims that company documents reveal a pattern of imposing less-stringent inspection requirements on company employees, despite the fact that the government sets out specific rules to be followed after gas line pressure surges. One report indicates that a company document advised PG&E engineers that they should only inspect lines for damage whenever pressure surges reached a level 10 percent higher than what the federal government allows.
The indictment further claims that the company never admitted this policy to federal regulators before the tragic explosion which occurred in San Bruno, California. The potentially incriminating documents were only shown to government officials after the blast. Now, PG&E representatives maintain that the document showing that policy was only a draft, and never officially enacted.
According to the indictment, however, this denial actually rises to the level of obstruction of justice. Investigators have allegedly turned up evidence showing that the company repeatedly followed that policy, deliberately failing to inspect gas lines such as the one in San Bruno which led to so many lives being ended and changed forever.
The counts handed down in this case are made against the company, and no specific individuals at the company. In addition to these criminal charges, the injured victims and surviving family members of those who died have the right to file civil claims against the company. This could lead to monetary reimbursement which can help the victims cover medical and funeral expenses and rebuild their lives in the wake of this horrific tragedy. Personal injury and wrongful death laws exist to protect innocent individuals who are harmed through no fault of their own, and are intended to return those victims to as whole a state as possible.
Missouri and Illinois residents who have been injured or lost relatives in utility company gas explosions retain a similar right to seek justice in a civil court of law. Please consider contacting my St. Louis personal injury law firm as soon as possible at 1-888-586-7041, toll-free. We can discuss what potential legal options might apply in your case, and how our firm can help you. Since we accept cases on a contingency basis, you will pay nothing until and unless we succeed in obtaining financial restitution for you. It can be important to remember that utility companies will often have teams of attorneys working to protect their rights, and this may help them gain access to vital evidence after a gas explosion and fire. By acting quickly to retain your own representation, you can greatly increase your odds of success.
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Sources: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/new_utility_company_indictment_in_fatal_gas_blast_could_lead_to_fines_of_as/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=daily_rss and http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/PG-amp-E-accused-of-obstructing-justice-in-San-5655355.php