Ed Robinson, a partner at Cannon & Dunphy S.C., obtained a $1.8 million total
recovery on behalf of a mother and her child who sustained significant
burn injuries when their Milwaukee home exploded due to the underground
migration of natural gas into their home from a broken gas main located
under the street outside. Although the mother and her son were unaware
of this danger, approximately 1 ½ hours earlier, the City of Milwaukee
had received two separate telephone calls from residents in their neighborhood
advising them of the strong odor of gas.
Through depositions and written discovery, Ed Robinson was able to establish
that both the gas company and the Milwaukee Fire Department were aware
from their training that natural gas escaping from a broken main creates
an extremely dangerous situation due to the potential for underground
migration of escaping gas into nearby homes, which could result in an
imminent explosion. He also established that both the gas company and
fire department were aware that, because of this danger, immediate evacuation
of residents in the area was required.
Nevertheless, the firefighters who responded to the scene and who confirmed
the break in the natural gas line failed to evacuate affected residents.
Instead, after notifying the gas company of the leak, the fire department
left the area and returned to quarters. Unfortunately, there was a significant
delay before the arrival of gas company personnel to the scene, and, initially,
only one gas company employee responded. Once the break in the main was
identified by the gas company, rather than first evacuating residents
from their homes as required by the gas company’s policies and procedures,
the gas company instead attempted to shut off the flow of gas through
the distribution line. The clients’ home exploded while the gas
company was working to close the gas valves.
Through his efforts, Ed Robinson was able to secure a settlement with the
gas company for $1.7 million. However, the City of Milwaukee denied his
clients’ claims, and eventually moved for summary judgment on the
grounds that it was immune from any liability because its decision to
not evacuate residents involved the exercise of discretion. The circuit
court agreed with the City, and dismissed the case.
Ed Robinson successfully appealed the circuit court’s dismissal of
his clients’ claims against the City, and the Wisconsin Court of
Appeals reversed the circuit court and reinstated his clients’ lawsuit
against the City. Following remand back to the circuit court, the City
ultimately agreed to pay $50,000 each to Cannon & Dunphy S.C.’s
two clients, representing the maximum amount by law which a municipality
is required to pay for injuries caused by the negligence of its employees.
Investigating and prosecuting fire and explosion cases can be quite complex.
Not all attorneys have the specialized knowledge and experience required
to successfully handle such cases.If you or a loved one has been injured in a fire or explosion,
contact Cannon & Dunphy S.C. today. There is no substitute for experience. We have a proven track record of
success in handling such cases.