PG & E Record Flaws Exposed in San Bruno Explosion Investigation

Months after an explosion in a Pacific Gas & Electric pipeline killed eight people in San Bruno, maintenance documents released by the utility to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) show conflicting information about repair work performed along the line for decades, according to a report in the San Francisco Examiner.

The discrepancies concern the details of a 1998 leak a few miles away on the same high – pressure gas line. PG & E workers who repaired that leak reported problems and remedial steps different from those reported by the utility. In the wake of last year’s San Bruno explosion, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered the turnover of thousands of PG & E documents concerning safety, maintenance and repair records.

Comparing the documents to the utility’s previous statements, it appears that PG & E itself is yet to get a handle on the causes of leaks along its pipeline. For example, PG & E has previously stated that the pipeline was seamless, but the records show numerous welds and other repairs along lengthwise seams.

Complex Accident Investigation Depends on Careful Records Analysis

The San Bruno pipeline explosion case illustrates the complexity of investigating accidents involving public utilities. In civil actions for damages by the individuals and families most directly affected, it will be necessary to prove negligence on the part of the utility or its contractors in the design, installation or maintenance of the transmission line.

Because the most reliable and specific evidence of the causes of an accident will generally come from the records maintained by the utility itself, the failure to maintain proper maintenance and repair records can complicate the investigative efforts of plaintiffs’ lawyers as well as those of regulators. In some cases, however, proof of inadequate record – keeping practices by itself can help establish the plaintiff’s case for negligence.

Call Weber & Nierenberg for a Free Consultation: 866-288-6010

At the Bay Area law firm of Weber & Nierenberg, our experience with the investigation and proof of complex personal injury claims against corporate and public agency defendants can make the decisive difference in the outcome of a catastrophic personal injury or wrongful death case.

Contact us for a free consultation in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose or San Rafael if you need advice about your legal options in the aftermath of a public utility accident, a bus or train crash, or an accident on government property. You can also visit our website.

Officials Investigate Segmented Pipe in San Bruno Explosion

Possible Negligence in San Bruno Fire

As officials from the NTSB and PG&E continue their investigation into the cause of the San Bruno gas explosion, state investigators have turned their attention to a segmented pipe that had been classified as “high risk” due to its proximity to homes in the area. Responsible for the deaths of at least four people, destroying and damaging several homes, and injuring 60 people, the cause of the San Bruno gas explosion isn’t yet clear. However, several people reported smelling gas in the area days before the explosion.

Section of Segmented Pipe Attracts Attention of Investigators

The section of pipe in question consists of 28-foot section that isn’t solid and seamless but rather appears to be made up of segments welded together. Concerned that a pipe made up of segmented sections is more prone to leaks, corrosion, and wear, the NTSB has asked PG&E to explain why they would use a pipe constructed in this way as part of a gas line. The pipeline that exploded appears to have been installed in 1956 when there were fewer homes in the area.

As population in the area increased, more homes were built nearer to the gas line, resulting in its “high risk” designation. As a result, the line was not outfitted with automatic shut-off valves but manual ones. Christopher Hart, Vice Chairman of the NTSB, has indicated they will be looking closely at what role the manual shut-off valve may have played in the explosion.

Liability, Injury Claims, and the San Bruno Gas Explosion

While investigators continue to determine the cause of the San Bruno natural gas explosion, it’s important for effected homeowners and injury victims to contact their insurance carrier and an attorney. Even though initial information indicates PG&E may have acted negligently in not properly responding to earlier reports of the smell of gas, someone digging in the area may have caused the explosion. As a result, responsibility for the San Bruno gas explosion may be attributable to a contractor, homeowner, PG&E or a combination of all three. Here, legal issues surrounding liability and subrogation can complicate issues and create unnecessary difficulties for injured people and homeowners trying to recover what they’ve lost.

Legal Representation – Protecting Your Interests and Rights

In order to protect your interests and rights, it’s important to work with an experienced team of personal injury attorneys who can ensure your insurance company honors all of their commitments in a timely, transparent manner. Additionally, taking photos of your property and documenting your injuries are also important should the need to go to trial arise at some point in the future.

With four office locations throughout the Bay Area – San Francisco, Oakland, San Rafael, and San Jose – the personal injury law office of Weber & Nierenberg has helped countless people and families recover compensation for injuries and property loss. We’ve represented a number of clients in cases involving carbon monoxide poisoning and understand the issues involved in the maintenance and installation of natural gas pipelines.

For more information regarding our practice or to speak with one of our attorneys for a free consultation, call San Bruno gas explosion attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg at 415-788-3900 or toll free at 1-866-288-6010 today. If you prefer you can email us and we will contact you shortly.

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