Victims of propane explosion receive largest pre-trial settlement in state court history

Plaintiffs filed lawsuits against U-Haul for alleged faulty, outdated tank

Steve Tawa
June 27, 2018 - 5:57 pm

Dreamstime

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The surviving family members of two people killed, as well as two others injured, in a Philadelphia food truck propane gas explosion four years ago have settled wrongful death and negligence litigation — the largest pre-verdict settlement in Pennsylvania state court history.

On July 1, 2014, a 42-year-old mother and her 17-year-old daughter were inside their food truck in the Feltonville neighborhood when a propane tank on the back of the truck exploded into a massive fireball. They died of their injuries. Two other people nearby, known as Alex and Jane Doe, were severely burned.

Andrew Duffy, who was one of the more than 50 lawyers involved in the case, characterized the $160 million settlement as "the largest pre-trial settlement in Pennsylvania state court history." More than $36 million will go to the family of the mother and daughter who died. Alex and Jane Doe will receive about $69 million and $54 million, respectively.

Attorney Alan Feldman, who represents the surviving family members of the mother and daughter, said their objective was to obtain compensation and shine a light on propane tank safety, especially with food truck festivals and outdoor barbecues in full swing.

"Like most American consumers, they didn't know what the regulations required. They relied on the experts, like U-Haul," he said.

The faulty propane tank was manufactured in 1948, and Feldman said its shelf-life expired in 1960.

"Every tank must have a pressure relief valve. This tank did not," he added.

Feldman also said it didn't have a spitter valve, which would have indicated to the U-Haul dispenser that it was filled over capacity.

U-Haul said it extends its sympathies to those affected, and it is committed to propane safety. But the company maintains that it did not fill the propane cylinder involved in the tragedy.

Last week, a U-Haul subsidiary and the general manager of one of its Philadelphia stores were indicted. The U.S. Attorneys Office in Philadelphia charged them with violating federal hazardous materials regulations.