$1.7 Million Wrongful Death Settlements
A couple was fatally burned after an improperly installed propane system spilled gas into their cabin and sparked a catastrophic fire. The couple had contracted with an installation company for a new propane hearth stove. A propane gas distributor was contracted to supply fuel for the stove and to install an exterior propane tank and exterior gas piping that would connect to the interior installation.
During our investigation, we discovered that:
- The installation company did not obtain a building permit.
- There was no independent inspection of the system to assure quality and prevent gas leaks.
- The 19-year old employee of the installation company had not completed required safety testing, and did not have the required license from the Oregon State Fire Marshall.
- The propane gas distributor hooked up the propane system without the required inspection tag.
- The propane gas distributor did not conduct a pressure test on the system.
- Screws were not tightened on the kit that converted the stove from natural gas to propane, allowing propane to silently and invisibly leak from the stove onto the floor.
- There were several small leaks in the pipe fittings and connections.
A Portland attorney referred the case to us. We filed suit on behalf of the family. The case settled early in litigation for a combined total of $1.7 million.
Don Corson of the Corson & Johnson Law Firm of Eugene, Oregon represented Bradford Deluca, a young man who was injured while rock climbing at a camp that provided high school seniors a safe and fun graduation night experience.
The Camp provided as part of its facilities a climbing wall, and as part of its services, staff to operate the climbing wall. The Camp staff had responsibility for, and control over, how its paying guests were rigged up for each climb. A Camp staffer was responsible for properly securing each guest for each ascent, through means of a carabiner affixed by the staffer to a standard climbing harness.
On Bradford’s third climb, the Camp staffer failed to properly secure him. Bradford reached the top of the climbing route, touched the bell affixed to the top, and leaned back for the controlled descending rappel just as he had done twice earlier that evening. Because the Camp staffer had failed to properly secure him, there was a sudden fall instead of a controlled descent. Unfortunately, the Camp had chosen for its fall protection the thin style of mats designed for the much lower loads of gymnastics, instead of the thicker safety crash pads routinely used in climbing gyms. Both of Bradford’s wrists snapped. One wrist was so severely broken that it required extensive surgery that involved the permanent installation of orthopedic hardware.
In settlement negotiations, Bradford pressed to have the Camp install safer climbing equipment, including climbing crash pads, to protect young people in the future. Afterwards, Bradford donated a portion of his settlement to purchasing new climbing crash pads for the Camp.