WATERLOO, Iowa — Trial started Tuesday in a Hudson woman’s lawsuit against a propane provider in connection with a 2008 explosion that destroyed her home and left her with severe burns.
Attorney Brett Beattie, who is representing Donna Firgard and her husband, Richard, told jurors that New Century FS failed to notify the couple about the dangers of the propane.
In particular, New Century didn’t warn the Firgards the odor injected into the normally odorless gas could fail, allowing a room to fill up without residents knowing, Beattie said. He also said the company failed to recommend purchasing gas detectors to warn of leaks.
Donna Firgard, 68, received second- and third-degree burns to a third of her body after she tried to reignite a water heater pilot light in her Waters Road home in Hudson in May 2008.
Beattie said the blast was like being caught inside a bomb with temperatures in the thousands of degrees.
“She literally caught a glimpse of hell when the explosion occurred,” Beattie said.
“Getting burned alive is perhaps the worst thing that could happen to a person,” he said.
Beattie said the leak started in the underground line between the outside storage tank and the house, and the dirt filtered out the ethyl mercaptan, the chemical that gives propane its distinct odor.
Attorney David Dahlmeier, who is representing New Century, said the company did issue warnings.
He said mailings were sent to customers in 2006 and 2007 that mentioned the importance of gas detectors, and an Iowa Propane Gas Association brochure was mailed separately.
The company also included warnings about possible failures of propane odorant and recommended gas detectors on the back of delivery tickets left at the homes when filling tanks, Dahlmeier said.
Dahlmeier disputed the plaintiffs’ claim that the odor-causing chemical failed and said the smell would have been detectable inside the home.
He said New Century complied with every code, statute and standard in the propane industry.
Trial continues today at the Black Hawk County Courthouse.
By JEFF REINITZ, [email protected] wcfcourier.com