Jurors have awarded a local couple millions of dollars after they found that an energy company and a home builder were negligent when they failed to plug and seal a gas valve.
Fernando Ramirez and his wife, Minerva Ramirez, were injured in 2015 when a gas leak in their home caused an explosion. They later filed a lawsuit in the 406th District Court against CenterPoint Energy, WestWind Homes and the plumber who installed the valve.
On Tuesday, after six days of trial, the jurors found each defendant negligent. Jurors ordered that the couple receive $7 million in compensation.
“Because of the defendants’ wrongful conduct, acts and omissions, on Feb. 17, 2015, the home located in the 200 block of Michoacan Loop … exploded and severely injured … Fernando and Minerva Ramirez,” the lawsuit states.
The defendants denied the allegations against them.
[WestWind’s attorney] said the case will be appealed as his party believes several errors were made in the verdict. Oubre said this is the first case of its kind that WestWind has dealt with.
“WestWind has been part of the community for 24 years,” [WestWind’s attorney] said. “They do the best to make sure that homes are safe and we’ve taken steps to make sure that homes are safe. We feel sorry for the family and wish there had been different results.”
[CenterPoint Energy’s attorney] was not unavailable for comment Friday.
According to Nicholas Morrow, the plaintiffs’ attorney, a gas valve in the home was inadvertently opened, “causing a gas leak that was ignited when our client moved the power cord for an electric dryer in the utility room.”
“If the valve had been plugged and sealed, it would have been impossible for the valve to leak,” he said.
Morrow added, “The jury found CenterPoint liable for failing to ensure the valve was plugged and sealed when it turned on gas to the home. WestWind Homes was found liable for failing to plug, seal and safely configure the valve when WestWind built and sold the home.”
The jury found WestWind 60 percent responsible for the explosion and CenterPoint 34 percent responsible.
WestWind’s plumber who installed the valve, Armando Aguilar & Son Contractor, was found 6 percent responsible. Aguilar settled for $500,000 before trial began, Morrow said.