Friday, October 23, 2009

Fourth lawsuit filed against NorthWestern Energy over Montana gas explosion

BOZEMAN, Mont. - A fourth lawsuit has been filed against NorthWestern Energy, claiming the utility company is to blame for the March 5 explosion in downtown Bozeman that claimed one life and destroyed half a city block.
In his complaint, Rocky Mountain Rug Gallery owner Jalal Neishabouri accuses NorthWestern Energy and its gas system integrity manager Leonard Leveaux of negligence. The lawsuit is similar to others already filed in Gallatin County District Court.
Neishabouri moved to Bozeman in 1991 and has operated the Rocky Mountain Rug Gallery since that time, according to the lawsuit. Court papers state his inventory included 5,000 "high quality carpets, new antique and historical, many of which were damaged by smoke, water, glass or the foreseeable mishandling during efforts to rescue some of the carpets following the explosion and fire which is the subject of the suit."
The lawsuit claims the two-inch service line behind the Rocky Mountain Trails art gallery had become brittle and cracked, causing a large gas leak and subsequent explosion and that NorthWestern officials chose to ignore the dangerous conditions created by weakened thread joints in the pipe.
"The dangerous, brittle condition of the service line made it susceptible to fracture from common natural forces. Those forces and the susceptibility of embrittled pipe to fracture when exposed to those forces are well known and well understood in the gas distribution industry. The threaded connections between segments of pipeline are weak points which are prone to the initiation of cracks and failures," the lawsuit states.
Neishabouri's suit also says NorthWestern's inability to locate and shut off its own valves after the blast was a result of the company's negligent and reckless conduct.

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