Jury Deliberates in Explosion Civil Suit

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Jury Deliberates in Explosion Civil Suit

WATERLOO, Iowa — Jurors were scheduled to begin deliberations today in a Hudson woman’s lawsuit against her propane company in connection with a 2008 explosion.

Donna Firgard and her husband, Richard, claim New Century FS didn’t adequately warn them about the need for leak detectors and the shortcomings of the odor injected into the gas that is designed to act as a warning.

Donna Firgard received second- and third-degree burns when she went to light the pilot on her water heater in May 2008. A leak in the line between her home and the outdoor propane tank had filled the basement with gas, and the blast leveled her house.

Two weeks of testimony ended Thursday, and attorneys for both sides summed up their cases today.

Brett Beattie, who is representing the Firgards, said the odor-causing chemical was filtered out when the gas traveled through the soil and into the house.

Defense attorney David Dahlmeier said the odor was likely still present when Donna Firgard entered the basement with a lighter. He referred to an interview she had with an official with the Iowa Fire Marshal Division while in the hospital. During the interview, she said one of the last thoughts before the blast was that she shouldn’t be doing this.

He also said New Century gave a number of warnings about the importance of gas detectors.

The jury is to divide fault in the case between New Century, the Firgards and a plumbing company that severed and then repaired the gas line in 2002 while placing water or sewer pipes. The leak was located in the fixed section, and Dahlmeier said it was caused by an over-tightened nut, a claim Beattie disputed.

The Firgards are seeking damages to cover medical treatment and property damage, past and future pain and suffering and loss of function.
By JEFF REINITZ, [email protected] wcfcourier.com