Lawsuit from 1995 gas explosion settled Dozens of homes had been damaged

October 31, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Liability for a 1995 natural gas explosion that ripped apart a vacant Westminster house and severely damaged dozens of neighboring homes has been settled by lawyers for 10 defendants and 36 plaintiffs, court officials said yesterday.

The pretrial agreement was accepted Oct. 8 by Donald J. Gilmore, a retired Circuit Court judge called upon to hear the complex civil lawsuit, according to Carroll County Circuit Court records. The agreement means that a lengthy jury trial that was scheduled to begin Monday was avoided.

Details of the settlement were ordered sealed by mutual agreement, and the case was formally closed Oct. 20, court records show.

No one was injured in the blast Jan. 19, 1995, but nearly 100 families were evacuated after the explosion at 1: 18 p.m. More than 60 homes were damaged, and 20 were declared uninhabitable by county housing inspectors.

The blast was heard up to 10 miles away, and debris was strewn through the Autumn Ridge neighborhood for more than a mile.

The vacant house at 90 Sunshine Way was reduced to smoldering rubble. Fire officials determined that gas from a 4-inch line ruptured by contractors who were installing underground cables had seeped into its basement. An unknown source -- possibly a sump pump that activated -- ignited the gas and caused the explosion, fire officials said.

A report issued by the Public Service Commission in February 1995 blamed Apollo Trenching for rupturing the gas line, but not for causing the explosion.

The commission report called the response to the ruptured gas line by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. "appropriate in this case."

Lawsuits stemming from the incident were filed by lawyers for more than two dozen insurance companies that paid more than $1.4 million to homeowners.

Defendants identified in court records were:

Reid C. Oliver, the sole proprietor of a company that installs underground cable.

Oli Underground, Oliver's business.

Maryland Underground Inc., an underground cable installation corporation.

Prestige Cable Television Inc., provider of cable television in Carroll County.

Danella Southeast of Maryland Inc., a business that installs utility lines, including natural gas lines.

BGE Home Products & Services, which locates and marks underground natural gas lines for contractors.

Apollo Trenching, a Howard County business owned by Oliver.

Apollo Contracting, also a Howard County business owned by Oliver.

L BGE, provider of gas and electric service in Carroll County.

Prestige Television Inc.

Because the settlement records were sealed, it is not known which of the defendants listed in court records were deemed responsible.

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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