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East Harlem explosion sparks lawsuits

The New York City’s Comptroller’s Office received 205 notifications of potential lawsuits relating to a March 12, 2014 explosion in East Harlem that resulted in eight fatalities, demolition of two buildings and displacement of hundreds of residents. New York could conceivably payout over $1 billion.

Preliminary tests indicate that a natural gas leak caused the blast at 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue. However, many potential litigants are awaiting the release of the National Transportation Safety Board’s final report to help determine potential liability before filing their cause of action. The NTSB finished on-site testing but has not yet completed its full report.

Notifications were submitted to the Comptroller’s Office from potential plaintiffs including the families of the eight killed in the blast, first responders that suffered injuries during their rescue attempt and many others that suffered losses because of the explosion. The notifications include potential lawsuits for wrongful death and other claims such as property damage.

Explosion victims claim losses that include posttraumatic stress syndrome, surgery, counseling, hearing loss anxiety disorders and torn ligaments. Victims were trapped and crashed in vehicles and fell through collapsed floors, among other things.

Con Edison, owner of the 100-year old gas lines under a building that exploded, also filed a notice as a precaution. It stated that it assumed that third-parties are responsible for the blast. A lawyer representing an alleged victims also plans to sue Con Edison for failing to maintain the gas lines and the building’s owner for negligent upkeep.

An attorney said it is likely that the suits will be consolidated in June 2015 and tried before one judge because of the high number of claims. He anticipates a long process.

Families of victims killed by alleged negligence or recklessness in a fatal accident should seek prompt advice to help assure that they pursue their rights to damages and to assist with determining liability. As this case indicates, determining fault and litigating claims may be complicated.

Source: DNA Info, “Hundreds plan to sue city over East Harlem explosion,” Gustavo Solls, Dec. 29, 2014