Two city employees were killed, and five city employees and two residents were injured when an unmarked gas line was accidentally hit, causing a gas explosion. The evidence indicated that a city Department of Public Works (DPW) employee called a safety company to announce an intended excavation at the site. The company’s notice was sent to all of the utilities in the area including an outside locating company which the gas company had hired to do its locating. The locating company sent a locator to the scene who mistakenly marked “NO GAS” in the area of an underground service line which ran from the main street into the home at the site.
The DPW crew arrived at the scene and observed that “NO GAS” was marked on the pavement. The crew ran its backhoe which struck the underground service line. Despite the fact that “NO GAS” was marked on the pavement, when gas was smelled at the scene, the crew stopped digging. As a result of a series of miscommunications, neither the gas company nor the fire department was notified until about 90 minutes after the line was struck. At about the same time the gas company was notified, the house on site exploded, resulting in the two deaths and seven injuries.
The personal injury cases settled first and the wrongful death cases settled on the day before jury selection was scheduled to start. The wrongful death settlements are believed to be the largest ever attained in Massachusetts.