Three Dallas firefighters who were severely injured in the Highland Hills apartment explosion have filed a lawsuit against Atmos Energy, the apartment complex owners, and the apartment management.
Brant J. Stogner, a partner at the Houston law firm Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner, as well as firm attorneys Jennifer O. Stogner, Jonathan D. Sneed, and Soroush Montazari, filed the lawsuit in Dallas County on behalf of the firefighters.
The three firefighters, Capt. Christopher Gadomski, Engineer Ronald Hall, and Officer Pauline Perez were severely burned and permanently injured as a result of the natural gas explosion at the Highland Hills Apartments in Oak Cliff on Sept. 29, 2021.
As a result of their injuries and burns, the three firefighters required multiple surgeries and ongoing medical care.
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The lawsuit alleged claims for negligence, premises liability, and gross negligence against the apartment complex owner, Mountain Creek Apts., LP, Odin Properties, Odin Management, and the complex's gas supplier, Atmos Energy Corporation.
According to the lawsuit, initial investigation reports indicate that the gas leak inside the unit was likely caused by a bullet from a domestic violence incident on the property prior to the explosion.
The lawsuit said the alleged shooter entered the property and shot multiple rounds near Unit 129 from the outside.
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The alleged shooter was identified and arrested for causing the leak, the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, while the bullet may have caused the initial gas leak, the bullet did not cause the explosion.
After the explosion, the Texas Railroad Commission completed an investigation and determined that Odin Properties and Mountain Creek Apts., L.P. operated an unregistered natural gas master meter system that failed to meet the minimum required standards, the lawsuit alleged.
According to the lawsuit, the apartment complex failed to meet federal and state standards in the following ways:
- Failing to draft and implement policies to ensure safe operation of Odin's natural gas system, including timely leak detection
- Failing to conduct a hazard analysis, including an analysis of the known risk of gun violence on the property and a resulting leak
- Failing to secure the Highland Hills complex to minimize the risk of trespassers and gun violence to people and property
- Failing to implement an emergency plan in the event of a leak, valve shut off procedures, and evacuation of buildings if an ultra-hazardous condition existed
- Failing to employ qualified persons to address leaks within Odin's system with knowledge of valve locations and emergency procedures
- Failing to adequately inspect the natural gas system, conduct leak surveys, and perform preventative maintenance
- Failing to install overpressure equipment or excess flow valves to minimize active leaks and cut off gas supply automatically
The lawsuit alleged that the explosion was preventable and that a combination of failures prior to and on the morning of the incident caused the explosion to occur.
"This pattern of unsafe, hazardous practices must stop," said Brant J. Stogner, lead attorney for the three injured firefighters, said. "The lives of three firefighters - public servants - were forever changed by this explosion. As a result of years of ignoring safety, ignoring crime, and failing to comply with the minimum state and federal requirements, the Highland Hills Apartment complex and its gas system became a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. While a bullet may have caused the gas leak, these defendants caused the explosion. Captain Gadomski, Engineer Hall, and Officer Perez dedicated their lives to service, and it is unclear whether any of them will ever be physically able to return to firefighting. Their injuries from the explosion are permanent, but they were preventable. My firm and I are filing suit to hold Atmos, Mountain Creek Apts, LP, Odin Properties, and Odin Management accountable and to seek justice for the three firefighters injured due to Defendants' negligence and gross negligence."