A Portage County judge issued a $7.2 million ruling against Amerigas in a civil lawsuit stemming from a massive explosion that killed two people and leveled a house in the Mogadore area in 2011.
A judge in Portage County has ordered a propane company to pay $7.2 million for its role in an explosion that killed two people and obliterated a house in the Mogadore area.
The 4 a.m. explosion in March 2011 was so powerful it was felt miles away, well into Stark County.
Killed in the explosion at 285 Martin Road were Regina Proudfoot, 63, and her grandson, Robert Croft, 21.
The civil lawsuit filed in Portage County Common Pleas Court led to a bench trial, meaning a judge, not a jury, heard the case. She issued her ruling on Wednesday.
Canton-based attorneys Brian Zimmerman and Allen Schulman represented family members of the victims.
“It looked like a bomb had gone off,” Zimmerman said. “The only thing that was still standing was portions of the foundation of the basement — it looked like a war zone.”
Regina Proudfoot’s estate will receive $3.2 million in total damages, the ruling said. Croft’s estate will receive roughly $4 million in damages.
The investigation determined that a fracture in the pipe under the porch had occurred and gas passed through the unsealed sleeve into the basement, according to the ruling by Judge Laurie J. Pittman. “The explosion occurred when the vapor from the propane was ignited by a heat source, more than likely, the furnace,” she wrote.
An Amerigas technician had previously inspected the piping.
Zimmerman said that the ruling “is going to send a clear message to AmeriGas that they need to train their employees better, that they’re dealing with a life and death situation (when they activate gas in a home).”
“It also sends a message that human life is valuable,” the attorney said.
“The verdict is reasonable in light of the very close and caring relationship this family had with one another,” Schulman said.
A message seeking comment was left Wednesday afternoon with a spokeswoman for AmeriGas. The company, which is based in King of Prussia, Pa., has more than 2 million customers across the country, according to its website.
Regina Proudfoot’s husband, Robert Proudfoot, died of a heart attack in 2010. Most of the construction of the home — built over the course of eight years — had been performed by Robert Proudfoot, the court ruling said. He had no formal training as a contractor, according to the ruling.
After Robert Proudfoot died, his wife oversaw the completion of the home, the judge wrote. The partial propane supply line was installed at the home while Robert Proudfoot was alive.
In April 2010, an AmeriGas employee and service technician arrived at the Proudfoot home to install an AmeriGas propane system. The employee was required to inspect the home’s pre-existing piping, which would be attached to the AmeriGas system.
Article originally posted by Ed Balint CantonRep.com staff writer on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 5:16 pm.