Knox v. Southern States Coop., Housewarmings, Trane, Monessen and Everburn (Kentucky) (2014)

On September 22, 2011 in Powell County Kentucky a propane explosion occurred resulting in the death of the homeowner and 2 adult children. Southern States, the national propane supplier, was the propane provider to the home. The other defendants manufactured propane appliances that were in the home. The cause of action against the propane appliance manufacturers were based upon failure to warn. Early in the litigation plaintiffs were able to reach substantial settlements the appliance manufacturers and the case proceeded against Southern States.

The Beattie Law Firm several years prior had just completed a case in Virginia, Gentry v. Southern States. In the Gentry case The Beattie Law Firm was able to obtain all of the corporate records relating to training, policy practices and procedures. The Beattie Law Firm also took the sworn testimony of all the corporate officials of Southern States. The information gained in the Gentry case proved invaluable in prosecuting the Knox case in Kentucky.

In Knox the Beattie Law Firm established that Southern States virtually had no training program whatsoever and any training was inadequate. This was exemplified by the fact that approximately 2 weeks before the explosion a propane gas deliveryman from Southern States was at the home delivering propane. During the delivery Karen Knox, at the request of her father, informed the driver that her father believed there was a leak in the propane gas system and to check it out. During the depositions the Southern States driver admitted that he did not do so because Karen Knox’s father was “an old man”. Of course there were many other violations of Kentucky law, NFPA Standards and industry custom. Because of the refusal and violation of the standards propane gas leaked into the home resulting in the explosion and the 3 deaths.

Because of this very unusual circumstance in refusing to conduct an investigation to determine whether the gas system was in fact leaking the conduct of Southern States rose from negligence to a punitive damage case. Because of this and the venue we had valued the case at approximately $18 million.

Many depositions were taken before the parties agreed to engage in mediation in May 2014. No settlement was reached and approximately one month later Southern States and its insurer met with plaintiff’s resulting in a very substantial confidential settlement.