June 26, 2014 — Southern California Gas Co. has been ordered to pay a 26 year-old man nearly $20 million in compensation for injuries he suffered after a gas explosion at his rental unit.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pengxuan “Dean” Diao, who was living in a converted garage he rented for $250 per month in San Gabriel, California. Employees of SoCal Gas opened a natural gas line that was illegally uncapped and ran directly into the garage. The employees left the property without checking for gas leaks, in violation of company policy. Overnight, the garage with up to 300 cubic feet of natural gas.
On January 11, 2011, Diao awoke and lit a cigarette, triggering an explosion. Although he did not realize the severity of his injuries right away, he was ultimately hospitalized for two weeks and required painful skin debridement and grafts to treat second- and third-degree burns over 20% of his body.
Diao says his girlfriend left him because he had scars on his arms, leg, torso, and head. He was also diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury that his attorneys say will cause dementia by age 50. He was unable to work at his job at a tea bar because brain damage left him unable to remember the recipes.
SoCal Gas admitted that they were responsible for the explosion, but they filed a lawsuit against the landlords to share part of the liability. The jury in Los Angeles agreed, ultimately finding the landlords liable for $2 million. SoCal Gas was ordered to pay Diao about $18 million.
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