A Pennsylvania candy maker ignored warnings about a gas leak at its chocolate factory and is taking responsibility for what happened next.Several others were injured, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The family of Judith “Judy” Lopez-Moran, a 55-year-old mother of three, has been in the R.M. since the March bombing in West Reading. Palmer Co. Their lawyers filed a wrongful death lawsuit for the first time.
Workers smelled gas the day of the explosion and notified Palmer, but the 75-year-old, family-owned company “did nothing,” he said. The case said.
“The gas leak at the plant and the catastrophic explosion it caused were foreseeable, predictable and preventable,” the complaint says. “Sadly, Judith Lopez-Moran’s death and suffering were preventable.”
The lawsuit, also titled Gas Utility UGI, was filed in Philadelphia Public Pleas. The company declined to comment on pending litigation.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the explosion, which leveled a building at the factory complex and damaged several buildings in West Reading.
Federal security officials had earlier confirmed that they were investigating the role of a natural gas pipeline in the blast. The National Transportation Safety Board called the incident a “natural gas” explosion and fire, citing preliminary information from local officials and utilities about the pipeline’s role.
Complaints of smell of gas before explosion
Palmer officials should have left immediately after being told about the gas odor, but instead “represented to factory workers, including Judith Lopez-Moran, that the factory was safe and there was no gas leak,” the lawsuit said.
Palmer, according to the lawsuit, “intended to mislead factory workers … that factory workers would continue to work and that factory downtime would be reduced.”
Blast survivor Patricia Borges, a friend and co-worker of López-Moran’s, previously described how her hand was set on fire by the building’s flames. She was then. Borges told The Associated Press that he and others complained about the smell of gas about 30 minutes before the factory explosion.
Palmer expressed his condolences but has said little since the explosion. The chocolate company, which makes seasonal chocolates for occasions like Easter, Christmas and Halloween, employs about 850 people, according to its website. The factory in West Reading dates back to the early 1960s.
“Valuable Members of the Palmer Team”
“The seven we lost will always be in our prayers and we wish the injured a speedy recovery. Many of the people we worked with over the years have become personal friends and valued members of the Palmer team. Their loss will be felt forever,” the Palmer family said in a statement five days after the blast.
The law firm representing Lopez-Moran’s family, Saltz Mongalussi Pendeschi, said it represents more than a dozen victims of the explosion.