The plaintiffs in a case that involved a food truck explosion in Philadelphia were awarded $160 million. This is believed to be the largest pre-verdict settlement in the state's history. The food truck contained a faulty propane tank that exploded. A mother and daughter were killed and several people endured severe burns and other injuries from the blast.
U-Haul, who was among the named defendants, was accused of refilling the outdated tank of propane. Those receiving awards included “Alex Doe,” who received $69.1 million and “Jane Doe,” who received over $54 million. Two others under the aliases of “Sofia Smith” and “Maria Smith” were reportedly going to receive over $36 million.
A nearby surveillance camera showed footage of the event where the food truck's propane tank was ignited creating a fiery explosion that sent fragments flying dozens of feet away. The mother and daughter who were killed were actually working within the truck at the time. Many bystanders were impacted and transported to Temple University Hospital with second- and third-degree burns.
U-Haul issued a formal statement through Sebastian Reyes, their vice-present of communications, who expressed sympathy for the victims of the tragedy. The company did not definitively take responsibility for the explosion, as they stated that the tank “could have been filled at a U-Haul location.” The company did acknowledge that they regularly refill these types of tanks for those in the food industry.
Since the accident, the company has revised their safety protocol relating to propane. The Philadelphia Business Journal said the plaintiffs and their attorneys are sponsoring a Community Partnership Mobile Teaching Kitchen that will promote food truck safety.
Severe burn injuries can cause infection, blisters, damage to nerves and permanent scarring or disfigurement. Severe burn injury victims have been known to rapidly lose body heat and develop hypothermia. Often victims may pursue damages in civil litigation for significant medical costs such as those for surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy and long-term medical assistance.
Burns are generally classified in three distinct categories as follows:
- First degree: These are the least dangerous type, resulting in mild pain, redness, and irritation.
- Second degree: These burns reach the lower layer of skin known as the dermis and appear blistered, swollen and irritated.
- Third degree: These burns significantly penetrate the skin and potentially cause internal damage. The area may appear blacked or charred and cause feelings of numbness.
Philadelphia Vendor Propane Laws
The city has laws specifically addressing propane and natural gas safety for street vendors. The tanks must be capable of withstanding impact that is equal to “four times the weight of the filled container.” Tanks mounted in the exterior must be secured in a cabinet with venting to diffuse vapors. These must be equipped with a regulator that is weather protected and an indicator that detects leaks. Tanks may not be mounted on the roofs of vehicles or on the interior and must have a device to protect from overfilling. Pipes must be made of durable brass, copper, or steel; plastic material is not permitted.