5 Families Sue Atmos Over Gas Leaks That Resulted in Deadly Home Explosion

The lawsuit says natural gas provider Atmos Energy was negligent, failed to meet safety regulations

NBC 5 News

Five families that lived in the Northwest Dallas neighborhood where a residential gas line exploded and killed a 12-year-old girl filed a lawsuit Monday accusing Atmos Energy of negligence.

The lawsuit said the natural gas provider failed to meet safety regulations and is seeking at least $50,000. The families said they feared for their safety after the deadly explosion in February 2018 and were forced to evacuate their homes.

The plaintiffs allege that two other gas line explosions happened on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 that Atmos was aware about -- the two days leading up to the fatal explosion on Feb. 23, 2018 that killed Linda "Michelita" Rogers. The plaintiffs' homes shared that same gas line, the lawsuit said.

Residents in the neighborhood at the time were families, mostly with children. After the deadly explosion, the adults and their children "were afraid to go to their homes due to fear it might blow up," the lawsuit said.

Across a shared alley from where 12 year old Linda "Michellita" Rogers was killed, Jonathan Gonzalez and their family stand in front of their home, destroyed in a natural-gas related explosion two days before Rogers was killed.

Atmos declared the leaks resolved on March 5 and residents were able to return to their homes. The plaintiffs and their children, "had difficulties trusting Atmos' declaration that it was safe to return to their homes and apartments." Many of them slept with their windows open even though it was cold outside.

After the Feb. 23 explosion, the families were woken up and forced to leave their homes, pets and belongings without notice due to Atmos' "negligent acts and/or omissions and prior conscious indifference to their well-being and safety," the lawsuit said. Plaintiffs said they were unable to grab any additional clothes and got sick from standing in the cold.

Dozens of families cannot go home, and they don't know when they'll be allowed back in their neighborhood, after a deadly house explosion Friday in Dallas.

The plaintiffs said they lost money in property damage, destruction and loss. The residents mention losing work days, relocating during the evacuation and taking their children to school.

It also mentions their mental, physical and emotional distress, including to children with special needs who lived in the neighborhood.

The lawsuit alleges gross negligence and recklessness on the part of Atmos Energy through their employees.

NBC 5 has reached out to Atmos for comment on the latest lawsuit.

The family of Michelita settled a wrongful death suit in May 2019 where they sought at least $1 million in damages. The amount they decided in the end was not made public.

The family of Linda "Michelita" Rogers, the 12-year-old girl killed in a natural gas explosion in her Dallas home in Feb. 23, 2018, released a series of videos showing the girl's final moments.

That lawsuit accused Atmos of neglecting its "mismatched Frankensteinian" pipe system. It claimed Atmos had many prior warnings about problems in the neighborhood but failed to take appropriate precautions.

Since the explosion, Atmos said it has replaced 98 miles of pipe in Dallas, which is 75% more than all of what was replaced in 2017. Additionally, Atmos has brought on 75 contract crews, a 250% increase over 2017, to conduct the work. They have also filed the 8.209 supplement "which outlined our plans for accelerated pipe replacement, including the complete removal of cast iron by December 2021."

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