According to Kansas City Business Journal updated on August 28th:
A Jackson County jury awarded $5.9 million in damages stemming from a gas main explosion on Feb. 19, 2013, at JJ’s Restaurant in Kansas City that destroyed the building, killed one person and injured 15 others.
David and Jimmy Frantze, owners of JJ’s, sought more than $9 million in damages, but the jury didn’t consider startup cost for their new restaurant that opened in November 2014 as part of the damages.
JJ’s lawsuit was filed against Time Warner Cable, contracting company Heartland Midwest, Missouri Gas Energy and USIC Locating Services.
Time Warner bore the brunt of the blame in the jury’s decision because it was ultimately the company’s responsibility to ensure that the project was done safely. USIC Locating Services wasn’t found liable at all.
Time Warner hired crews to install a fiber-optic cable in the area. The crews hit a natural gas line with an auger, and fumes filled the area. In 2014, the Missouri Public Service Commission found that MGE waited too long to investigate and evacuate the area and also didn’t shut off the gas or discuss eliminating potential sources of ignition with JJ’s employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also cited Heartland Midwest for lack of training for its employees.
The fumes ignited, and the explosion killed Megan Cramer, whose family filed suit and received a settlement in November.
The trial for the JJ’s damages case lasted six weeks, with the jury deliberating for nearly two days.
“No, we didn’t get everything we asked for, but it was clear that they addressed this whole case very seriously on both the liability and damages side, and we’re not going to second-guess or criticize them,” said Steve Emerson, a partner at Stinson Leonard Street LLP who represented JJ’s. “We got a fair trial.”
Emerson said he fully expects the defendants to appeal, saying their attorneys already signaled an intent to drag out the post-verdict litigation for several years. However, Time Warner said it will take time to mull things over.
“We know no court decision can undo this tragedy,” the company said in a statement. “We’ll take some time to review the court’s decision before deciding our next step in this case.”
Emerson said one of the main things he hopes comes out of the verdict are lessons about public safety.
“We think there was just a whole string of mistakes made by pretty much everyone who touched this project,” Emerson said. “There are industry codes, state laws and company policies that need to be followed. If something comes out of this, we hope it’s that companies do a self-audit and say they need to do better because if they make mistakes, people are going to die, people are going to get hurt and buildings are going to explode.”