Federal judge throws out Peoples Gas System lawsuit over natural gas explosion

By Justin Stoltzfus | Jul 16, 2018

A federal judge ruled People Gas Systems cannot recover settlement money over a natural gas explosion.  

FT. MYERS –– A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Peoples Gas System (PGS) against Posen Construction over a natural gas explosion.

In the June 26 ruling, Judge Sheri Polster Chappell PGS of the U.S. District Court of Middle Florida found PGS cannot sue Posen Construction over an earlier settlement payment made to an injured Posen employee. 

The lawsuit stemmed from injuries received by Mark Santos, a Posen employee, who was burned when an excavator punctured a natural gas line. Santos sued both comapnies, but dropped the suit against Posen and settled with PGS.

PGS claimed Posen Construction violated the Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, which protects people and property when damage to an underground facility occurs. As part of the law, PGS attempted to recover the money spent on the settlement with Santos. 

Chappell, however, found PGS did not completely understand the definitions in the statute. 

“PGS conflates a claim for personal injury with an indemnification claim based on a personal injury,” Chappell wrote. “Here, PGS is not claiming it suffered a personal injury as a result of Posen’s breach of duty under the statute. Rather, it makes a claim for indemnity based on a previous personal injury suit."

"PGS interpretation mischaracterizes the statutory language," the judge continued. "While the statute provides liability for bodily injuries, the plain language creates no duty to indemnify a member operator for money it paid during the settlement of a third party bodily injury claim.”

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Peoples Gas System U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Fort Myers Division

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