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COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY

WOLFE CIRCUIT CqYJlJ: , (&


CIVIL ACTION NO. J11.A-\.X)luu
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Coty Vanderpool and Jordan Vanderpool, Case Type: Wrongful death FILED
individually and as co-administrators of the
Case No. WOLFE C\RCU\T COURT
Estates ofPhillip Vanderpool and Sueann
Vanderpool, DEC 2 3 20\9
CLERK
Plaintiffs, DEB o.c.
BY.
v.
Troublesome Creek Gas Corporation, COMPLAINT AND JURY TRIAL
Charles R. Bradley dba Basin Energy DEMAND
Company,

Defendants.

COME THE PLAINTIFFS, by and through counsel, and for their claims and causes of

action against Defendants, state and allege as follows:

INTRODUCTION

1. This lawsuit arises out of an explosion that occurred on November 23, 2019, at a

residence located at Harvest Church Loop Road in Campton, Kentucky (the "Residence"), when

leaking gas, sold and delivered by Defendants, ignited and exploded, causing the wrongful deaths

of Phillip Vanderpool and Sueann Vanderpool.

THE PARTIES

2. Coty Vanderpool and Jordan Vanderpool are the co-administrators of the Estates

of Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool, as appointed by Order of Wolfe County District/Probate Court,

and bring this action in their individual capacities, on behalf of Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool,

and on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries of Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool, pursuant to

the Survival of Actions Statute (K.R.S. § 411.140) and the Wrongful Death Statute (K.R.S. §

411.130).

3. Coty Vanderpool is the son of Phillip Vanderpool and Sueann Vanderpool, and is

a resident of Montgomery County, Kentucky.


4. Jordan Vanderpool is the son ofPin1lip Vanderpool and Sueann Vanderpool, and

is a resident of Wolfe County, Kentuc.ky.

5. At all times material herein, Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool were residents of

Wolfe County, Kentucky.

6. At all times material herein, Phillip and Sue111111 Vanderpool were legally married

and husband and wife.

7. Defendant Troublesome Creek Gas Corporation ("Troublesome Creek") is a

Kentucky corporation with its principal place of business located at 139 Pickett Lane,

Prestonsburg, Ftoyd County, Kentuclcy 41653.

8. Defendant Troublesome Creek' s Agent for Service of Process is Charles R.

Bradley, 139 Pickett Lane, PO Box 934, Prestonsburg, Floyd County, Kentucky 41653.

9. Troublesome Creek is in the business of gathering, transmitting, and selling natural

gas through a system of pipelines that it and its agents constructed, own, maintaiu, repair, and/or

monitor.

10. Defendant Charles R. Bradley individually and d/b/a Basin Energy Company

("Bradley'') is a resident of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

11. Bradley is in the business of gathering, transmitting, and selling natural gas through

a system of pipelines he and his agents constmcted, own, maintain, repair, and/or monitor.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

12. 1urisdi ction is proper becwse the acts complained of occurred in Wolfe County and

the amount in controversy, exclusive of interests and costs, exceeds the minimum jurisdict:iollJil

limits of this Court.

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I3. Pursuant to K.R.S. § 452.450, venue is proper before this Court booause the tortious

acts of Defendants took place in Wolfe County, Kentucky.

FACTIJAL ALLEGATIONS

A. Natural Gas is Ultra-Hazardous

14. Natural gas is highly flammable gaseous substance commonly used as fuel.

Combustion of natural gas produces temperatures in excess of3,550 degrees Fahrenheit. One cubic

foot of natural gas h118 the explosive energy equivalent of one-half pound ofTNT.

15. Natural gas in its natural state is a colorless, odorless vapor at normal ambient

temperatures and atmospheric pressure.

16. Natural gas is also highly flammable and extremely dangerous, posing a severe fire

and explosion hazard. When it is mixed with air in the proper ratios, a highly combustible and

extremely dangerous mixture is funned.

17. The danger posed by natural gas is significantly greater when it cannot be detected.

Bec.ause of its lack of odor, along with its high degree of flammability and combustibility, state

and federal laws and regulation, as well as industry standards, require natural gas to be effectively

odorized or stenched to en.able detection of any Wlinte:nded release or le.ak of the gas.

18. Odori:zation of natural gas involves the injection of an odorant to serve as a warning

agent, allowing leaking propane to be detected by smell.

19. The transmission of natural gas is an abnonnally dangerous activity due to the

foreseeable risk that a like in a transmission pipeline may result in an explosion, and serious bodily

injury to persons within the blast zone.

20. Gas companies have a duty to reasonable inspect and maintain their natural gas

pipelines.

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21. When a gas company undertakes to inspect pipelines or premises to which pipelines

are routed, it must exercise care and diligence to make a thorough and adequate inspection and

make all necessary repairs or, in the alternative, shut off the supply of gas until the consumer has

made the necessary repairs or replacements.

B. The Explosion

22. At all times material herein, Defendants distributed, supplied, operated, sold, and

performed services relating to natural gas, gas piping, and gas metering at the Residence.

23. At all times material herein, Defendants constructed, owned, maintained, repaired,

and/or monitored pipelines that transmitted natural gas to the Residence.

24. Albert and Elizabeth Vanderpool were the parents of decedent Philip Vanderpool

and lived at the Residence.

25. On or around November 19, 2019, a leak developed in one of Defendants'

pipelines, which caused gas to leak into the Residence.

26. On or around November 19, 2019, members of the Vanderpool family called

Defendant Troublesome Creek to request that Troublesome Creek investigate the source of the

smell and to fix any gas leak.

27. On November 19, 2019, Defendant Bradley visited the Residence. Bradley failed

to perform an adequate inspection, in part because he failed to conduct any gas readings. As a

result, Bradley failed to determine that one of Defendants' gas pipelines was leaking gas into the

Residence. Following the inadequate inspection, Bradley left the Residence without shutting off

the gas, without fixing the gas leak, and without warning the Vanderpool family about a

foreseeable risk ofhann.

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28. Following the inadequate inspection by Defendant Bradley, natural gas continued

to leak at the Residence.

29. The Vanderpool family again called Defendant Troublesome Creek on November

20, 2019, to report the smeU of gas, and to request that Defendant Troublesome Creek investigate

and fix any gas leak.

30. On November 20,2019, Defendant Bradley again visited the Residence, but failed

to use any equipment or follow industry standards regarding the detection of a gas leak from

Defendants' pipelines. Following this inadequate inspection, Defendant Bradley again left without

shutting off the gas supply to the Residence, without fixing the gas leak, and without w8.rning the

Vanderpool family about the foreseeable risk ofharm.

31. The following day, on November 21, 2019, the Vanderpool family once again

called Defendants to report the smell of natural gas, and to request that Defendants investigate and

fix any gas leak.

32. Defendants did not send anyone to the Residence on November 21 or November

22, 2019 to investigate the gas leak.

33. Plaintiff Jordan Vanderpool is a trained gas pipeline technician. On November 22,

2019, Plaintiff Jordan Vanderpool visited the Residence and immediately noticed the smell of gas.

To minimize the risk of an explosion and resulting injury, Jordan then turned off the gas supply to

the Residence.

34. On the afternoon of November 23, 2019, Defendants' technicians arrived at the

Residence in response to a service call from Vanderpool family members that the gas smell was

still present at the Residence. Defendants' technician once again performed an inadequate

inspection. As a result, Defendants failed to realize that their pipeline was leaking. Defendants'

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technician told the Vanderpool family that the Residence was safe, despite the fact that the leak

had not been fixed and the Residence remained in a dangerous condition.

35. Following the inadequate inspection by agents or employees of Defendants on

November 23, 2019, one of Defendants' technician turned the gas supply to the Residence back

on, and told the Vanderpool family that he would return on Monday to fix the problem.

36. Shortly after Defendants' technicians left on November 23, 2019, natural gas that

leaked from Defendants' pipeline ignited, resulting in a massive explosion that destroyed the

Residence (as shown below).

37. Decedents Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool were killed as a result of the explosion.

The deaths of Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool, and the resulting damages suffered by Plaintiffs,

were directly and proximately caused by the wrongful acts and/or omissions of Defendants and/or

the agents, servants or employees of Defendants, in one or more of the following ways:

a. The Defendants created hazards which resulted in the November 23, 2019 natural

gas explosion;

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b. The Defendants failed to conduct a reasonable inspection to detect the gas leak.

c. Defendants failed to fix the gas leak.

d. The Defendants failed to discover and eliminate hazardous and unsafe conditions

which led to and resulted in the November 23, 2019 natural gas explosion;

e. The Defendants failed to safeguard against the life-threatening hazard that resulted

in the November 23, 2019 natural gas explosion, and thereby caused and/or allowed

and/or failed to prevent the emission of natural gas fumes which resulted in the

explosion;

f. The Defendants failed to properly and/or appropriately and/or adequately prevent

and block the flow of natural gas to a natural gas line that was unsafe and which

was not capped or adequately blocked and which was not adequately gas tight so

that natural gas was allowed to escape and, ultimately, explode on November 23,

2019;

g. The Residence, its components, gas lines, and equipment, were unreasonably

dangerous, unsafe and unfit, as a proximate result of the wrongful acts and/or

omissions of the Defendants;

h. The Defendants failed to provide proper safety equipment which would have

prevented the explosion which resulted in above-described injuries and death;

i. The Defendants created and/or failed to discover and eliminate the unsafe

conditions, fire hazards, explosion hazards, or other safety hazards, which the

Defendants, through the exercise of reasonable care, should have identified and

which presented life-threatening hazards to the decedents;

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j. The Defendants inadequately hired, trained, retained, supervised and/or monitored

agents, servants and/or employees responsible for work and/or activities which

resulted in the creation of the explosion hazard and/or which resulted in the failure

of the Defendants to identify the hazards and eliminate them and render the

Residence safe for occupancy;

k. Defendants failed to warn about the foreseeable risk ofhann; and

1. Defendants turned the gas line back on before it was safe to do so.

m. Defendants knew or should have known of the dangerous condition created by the

gas leaking from the pipeline, yet failed to inform and/or education those who were

in or near the Residence of the danger;

n. Defendants failed to warn or inform those who were in or near the Residence ofthe

actual or suspected leaks in the pipeline which ignited and caused the explosion,

thereby preventing all such persons from vacating the premises prior to the

explosion or take any measures to limit the damages as set forth herein.

CAUSES OF ACTION

COUNT 1: WRONGFUL DEATH

38. Plaintiffs re-allege and incorporate all of the preceding paragraphs as if fully set

forth herein.

39. As a direct and proximate result of the previously alleged conduct, all of which was

grossly negligent, wanton or reckless, Defendants caused the deaths of Phillip and Sueann

Vanderpool by their wrongful conduct.

40. Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool suffered personal injuries, including excruciating

pain and suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress, resulting in their deaths. The pain,

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disfigurement and loss of dignity suffered by Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool caused their family

to suffer more than normal grief upon their deaths.

41. As a direct and proximate result of the wrongful deaths suffered by Phillip and

Sueann Vanderpool, Plaintiffs assert a claim for judgment for compensatory and punitive damages

against Defendants, including but not limited to, medical expenses, funeral expense and other

related costs, pain and suffering, grief suffered by statutory beneficiaries, mental anguish,

disability and loss of life in an amount to be determined by the jury, but in excess of the minimum

jurisdictional limits of this Court, as well as costs and attorneys' fees, plus all other relief to which

the Plaintiffs are entitled by law.

COUNT II: STRICT LIABILITY

42. Plaintiffs re-allege and incorporate all of the preceding paragraphs as if fully set

forth herein.

43. At all times material herein, Defendants were engaged in an ultra-hazardous

activity, namely the transmission of natural gas, and are therefore strictly liable for any injury or

damage caused by their operations.

44. As a direct and proximate result of the previously alleged conduct, Defendants

caused the deaths of Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool by their wrongful actions.

45. Defendants are accordingly strictly liable to Plaintiffs for all damages flowing from

their conduct, including but not limited to punitive damages, medical expenses, pain and suffering,

fear, anxiety and emotional distress, permanent impairment, loss of future wages, wrongful death,

and funeral expenses.

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COUNT ill: NEGLIGENCE/GROSS NEGLIGENCE/RECKLESSNESS

46. Plaintiffs re-allege and incorporate all of the preceding paragraphs as if fully set

forth herein.

47. Defendants had a duty to properly monitor, inspect, maintain, and repair their gas

lines; and to warn of any dangerous conditions involving their gas lines.

48. Defendants were notified on at least four occasions in the week leading up to the

explosion that a gas smell had penneated the Residence and/or the grounds surrounding the

Residence.

49. Defendants and/or their agents, servants and employees breached their duty when

they acknowledged the existence of a gas leak but assured Vanderpool family members that the

leak posed no immediate danger to those at the Residence, and that they would return at a later

date to complete the repair.

50. By turning the gas back on to the residence without repairing the source ofthe leak,

Defendants and/or their agents, servants and employees engaged in negligent, grossly negligent,

and reckless conduct for which punitive damages are warranted.

51. As a direct and proximate result of the acts and conduct of Defendants and/or their

agents, servants and employees, decedents Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool were severely injured,

experienced extreme pain and suffering, and ultimately died from their injuries.

52. Defendants are liable to Plaintiffs for all damages flowing from their conduct,

including but not limited to punitive damages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, fear, anxiety

and emotional distress, permanent impairment, loss of future wages, wrongful death, and funeral

expenses.

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COUNT IV: FAILURE TO WARN

53. Plaintiffs re-allege and incorporate all of the preceding paragraphs as if fully set

forth herein.

54. Defendants and/or their agents, servants and employees knew or should have

known of the dangerous condition created by the leaking natural gas from their pipelines.

55. Defendants and/or their agents, servants and employees failed to warn the

decedents of the dangerous conditions created by the leaking natural gas from pipelines which

ignited and cause the explosion, thereby preventing the decedents from vacating the Residence

prior to the explosion or taking any measures to limit the damages set forth herein.

56. As a direct and proximate result of the acts and conduct of Defendants and/or their

agents, servants and employees, decedents Phillip and Sueann Vanderpool were severely injured,

experienced extreme pain and suffering, and ultimately died from their injuries.

57. Defendants are liable to Plaintiffs for all damages flowing from their conduct,

including but limited to punitive damages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, fear, anxiety and

emotional distress, permanent impairment, loss of future wages, wrongful death, and funeral

expenses.

COUNT V: VIOLATION OF THE KENTUCKY CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT

58. Plaintiffs re-allege and incorporate all of the preceding paragraphs as if fully set

forth herein.

59. At all times material herein, Defendants were engaged in trade and commerce

within the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

60. Decedents are within the class of persons intended to be protected by the Kentucky

Consumer Protection Act ("KCPA"), K.R.S. § 367, et seq.

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61. The KCPA provides that "Unfair, false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices

in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful." See K.R.S. § 367.170.

62. Defendants' previously-described wrongful conduct constitutes a violation of the

KCPA.

63. Defendants violated the KCPA by the use of false and misleading

misrepresentations regarding the safety of their gas pipelines.

64. Defendants represented that their gas pipelines were safe for continued use when

they knew or should have known of the dangerous conditions created by the leaking natural gas

from their pipelines.

65. As a result of Defendants' violation of the KCPA, Plaintiffs are entitled to recover

from Defendants all damages and losses caused by or arising from such violations, including

compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs demand judgment against the Defendants as follows:

i. A trial by jury;

ii. Judgment against the Defendants for damages, jointly and severally, including but

not limited to all compensatory damages, medical expenses, pain, suffering,

humiliation, embarrassment, fear, anxiety, lost wages, loss oflife, funeral

expenses, and all other amounts which will fairly and reasonably compensate

Plaintiffs for the damages incurred as a result of the Defendants' conduct;

iii. Punitive damages;

iv. Interest;

v. All attorneys' fees and costs expended herein; and

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vi. Any and all other relief to which the Plaintiffs are entitled, including the

opportunity to amend this Complaint if n

Dated: December 23,2019

By:
Law~:i:i3l!IM:t:i:r:;?11"'i'"I::-:-:J.=-
21946 Street
Hyden, KY 41749
(606) 672-5150
Local counsel for Plaintiffs

and

Eric Hageman (PHV forthcoming)


2950 PwC Plaza
45 South Seventh Street
Minneapolis, MN 55402-1652
(612) 338-0202
eric@pritzkerlaw.com
Attorney for Plaintiffs

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