Nine sue over Sissonville explosion - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Nine sue over Sissonville explosion

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Nine people are suing NiSource and its subsidiary Columbia Gas over damages sustained from last year's gas pipeline explosion in Sissonville.

Filed July 29 by Warner Law Offices, the seven suits all listed the defendants as Columbia Gas Transmission LLC, NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage Company, NiSource Midstream Services LLC, NiSource Energy Ventures LLC, NiSource Corporate Services Company, William Christian, Jack Whitmire Jr., Mitchell Thomas, Daniel Herpin and John Does 1-10.

John Doe defendants generally are used as placeholders if the person filing the lawsuit knows there are more defendants involved but does not yet know the names.

All suits alleged negligence to all defendants, willful, wanton, reckless conduct as to all defendants and negligent training, management and/or supervision.

Tina White filed a lawsuit against these defendants on behalf of the estate of Virginia Bailes, whom she says died in March 2013 as a result of health conditions sustained from stress over the pipeline explosion.

White's lawsuit states Bailes was driving home when the pipeline next to her home ruptured, causing her to leave her home for two months because of the damage sustained to her home.

The following February, the suit continues, Bailes was "forced" to move back into her house, even though the suit states her home had not been repaired.

White says the explosion, leaving her home and being forced to move back in prematurely caused her anxiety and severe emotional distress that lead to her March death, resulting from intracerebral hemorrhage, hypertension and atrial fibrillation.

Three lawsuits were filed by Sissonville landlord Dorma Harrison and the apartment's two residents, Darell Sigmon and his girlfriend Lorie Estep.

Harrison's lawsuit alleged her rental property sustained "serious physical damage" because of the explosion. Harrison also noted that Sigmon and Estep were forced to leave the home afterward because it was uninhabitable.

In Sigmon's lawsuit, he says he and Estep were in the Derricks Creek Road residence when the pipeline ruptured. After hearing the blast and feeling the house shake, the suit continues, Sigmon found his girlfriend and escaped through the bedroom window.

Their suits alleged it took defendants more than an hour to isolate the area of the pipeline where the explosion occurred and to shut off gas flow to that area.

The suits also cited a preliminary investigation report of the National Transportation Safety Board, stating the outside surface of the pipe was heavily corroded and lost 70 percent of its original thickness since its installation in 1967.

Sissonville resident Margaret Johnson said she was sitting in her Sissonville Drive home when the pipeline ruptured.  

In her suit, she said as soon as she saw flames around her home, she ran barefoot across her front deck to her car, sustaining burns and blisters in the process.

When she got to her car, the suit continues, she reached out for the hot door handle but jerked her hand away from the heat causing the tendons in her thumb to be injured, later requiring surgery.

Another two lawsuits were filed by four residents of a Sissonville Drive home. In Shelby McMillion's suit, she said her home, clothing, school supplies and photos were destroyed in the blast.

Amy McMillion and her two children who are minors also filed a suit, including NiSource Inc, ESIS Inc., Ace American Insurance Company and Gerard Sciabbarrasi as defendants.

Following the blast, the McMillions lived in a single hotel room into the New Year, the suit states. 

Amy McMillion alleged fraudulent inducement/duress against NiSource Inc, ESIS Inc, Ace American Insurance Company and Gerard Sciabbarrasi.

Her suit asserts a week after the explosion, Sciabbarrasi fraudulently induced her to sign a property release, which would release claims against Columbia Gas Trasmission, NiSource, ESIS, Ace American Insurance Company and other parties in exchange for $49,000.

McMillion said this figure was arbitrary and the full value of her claim was not taken into account when the settlement offer was made.

McMillion said Sciabbarrasi told her if she did not sign the release, she and her family could no longer live in the hotel room in which defendants were paying.

McMillion said she had no other choice but to sign the release and is asking the court to void this release to allow her to pursue claims against defendants.

After the filing of these suits, Columbia Gas released the following statement in response:

"Since the incident in Sissonville, WV took place, Columbia Pipeline Group has settled with and provided compensation to over 40 families impacted.  Our legal and insurance teams continue to work with families — and in some cases, their personal attorneys — to settle any remaining claims. As we have since the moment this incident occurred, we are committed to working with those families in a fair and reasonable manner.
Columbia took immediate action following the incident in Sissonville to ensure that basic essentials, including temporary housing, food, and transportation were provided to the affected community.  
In addition to attending to local families, in the hours, days and weeks after the incident, we partnered with the regional office of the Red Cross — to tap into their special expertise, provide additional support for those in need.
Again, our legal and insurance teams will continue to work with families to settle the remaining claims in a fair and reasonable manner."