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Gary Lovell and Stephen Cohen Obtain Defense Verdict in Wrongful Death Case

October 21, 2018

In October 2018, Gary Lovell obtained a defense verdict in a wrongful death case in Superior Court of Stephens County, Georgia.  Mr. Lovell tried the case with colleague Stephen Cohen, of CCS’s Atlanta office.  The case concerned an explosion at a residence in White County Georgia.  Prior to the explosion, the defendant sold liquid propane (“LP”) to the homeowners.  The homeowners believed they were using an excessive amount of LP, and called defendant to refill the tank, and check the system for leaks.  The company’s technician responded, found no leaks during his check, and filled the tank.  The homeowners were away on travel at the time, so their grandfather took responsibility for coordinating the LP delivery with defendant.  After delivery of the LP, the homeowner’s grandfather went to the residence, activated the furnace, and found everything to be in working order.  Approximately three days later, the grandfather returned to the residence for an unknown reason.  After he returned, the home exploded for an unknown reason.  Sadly, the grandfather was inside, and his body was recovered by fire investigators.

The decedant’s widow filed a wrongful death suit in Stephens County, Georgia.  She alleged that defendant failed to perform, or improperly performed the leak test and failed to locate a leak in the LP system servicing the home.  At trial, the evidence showed that defendant’s delivery technician performed the leak test prior the explosion.  Photographs taken by fire investigators shortly after the explosion revealed that the instrument necessary to perform the leak test was still attached to the LP tank regulator.  Furthermore, defendant’s experts refuted plaintiff’s experts’ theory that a hole in a furnace line was the cause of the leaking gas.  The defense expert opined that the hole was caused by deterioration from sitting in ash for almost a month after the fire.  Additionally, plaintiff’s theory of excessive LP use as evidence of a leak was also refuted.  Defendant’s expert showed that the usage was normal based on approximately 10 years of LP usage data.  Finally, the same expert also showed that the significant release of LP in the two to three days between the delivery and the explosion was consistent with an uncapped valve being opened, possibly by the decedent.   The trial lasted four days, with the jury retiring for deliberations on the afternoon of the fourth day.  After deliberating for approximately 3 hours, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defense.  A confidential pre-trial hi-lo agreement was secured between the parties, which precluded any appeals.

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For informational purposes only. Past success does not indicate the likelihood of success in future cases.