TWC ordered to pay nearly $6M for Kansas City restaurant explosion

Jurors ruled that Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) should pay $5.78 million stemming from a natural gas explosion that killed one worker and injured more than a dozen people at a Kansas City, Mo., restaurant in February 2013.

The explosion that took the life of Megan Cramer occurred at upscale eatery J.J.'s after a TWC subcontractor, Heartland Midwest, breached a natural gas line with an underground borer while trying to install fiber optic cable. Fumes filled the restaurant and ignited. 

Plaintiffs David and Jimmy Frantze, the brothers who operated J.J.'s, had been seeking $9 million and were also implicating USIC Locating Services, which contracts with utility companies. 

Lawyers for TWC and USIC sought to shift blame onto Missouri Gas Energy, calling the company's response to the leak inadequate. But the jury determined that TWC was 98 percent responsible and J.J.'s was 2 percent to blame for the explosion. That 2 percent reduced the damages payout down from the $9 million the plaintiffs had been seeking.

"No, we didn't get everything we asked for, but it was clear that they addressed this whole case very seriously on both the liability and damages side, and we're not going to second guess or criticize them," Steve Emerson, a partner at the Stinson Leonard Street law firm that represented JJ's, told the Kansas City Business Journal. "We got a fair trial."

Emerson said he expects TWC to file an appeal. 

"We know no court decision can undo this tragedy," Time Warner Cable spokesman Mike Pedelty said in a statement "We'll take some time to review the court's decision before deciding our next step in this case."

Cramer's family filed a separate suit and received a settlement payment last year.

For more:
- read this Kansas City Business Journal story
- read this Associated Press story

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