What Is Enough Proof?
On This Day:
July1, 2014 — Propane tank on food truck explodes and kills the owner of the food truck, a mother, along with her daughter. Others were severely burned, but their names have not been released because they are minors. A total of nine persons claimed that they were injured.
“Food trucks are gaining in popularity. They can be found just about anywhere and are even the focus of some popular television shows. While many of them offer amazing food choices, few people tend to think of the dangers these trucks may cause. A recent food truck accident in Pennsylvania resulted in minor to serious injuries to several people.”
“The food truck erupted in a ball of fire on a street corner in Feltonville on July 1, 2014, killing the owner of the truck and her teenage daughter.”
June 29, 2018 — In Pennsylvania, Attorneys Alan Feldman and Saltz Mongeluzzi prepare for a trial. They maintain that the manager of the local U-Haul store was negligent, as well as the U-Haul Corporation.
However, the case was never heard or presented before a judge or jury verdict.
However, the result was one of the largest, if not the largest pre-trial settlements.
The plaintiffs involved — “Alex Doe,” “Jane Doe,” and the estates of mother and daughter, “Sofia Smith” and “Maria Smith.”
The incident happened in 2014 in Feltonville, Pennsylvania, a neighborhood outside of Philadelphia
It involved a food truck, which was parked on 3rd Street and Wyoming Avenue in Philadelphia, Pa., outside of an auto body shop, where it is generally parked every day.
The pre-trial settlement resulted in a $160 million settlement (and an undisclosed confidential settlement amount). At this time, it’s the largest-ever pretrial personal injury settlement in Pennsylvania history.
The truck was parked and suddenly exploded.
“We thought something fell over. Then all of a sudden we heard screams,” neighbor Nicole Ellis told WCAU-TV. “We walked outside and the truck was billowing fire.”
Neighbor Luis Rivera told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his home across the street shook from the blast. — “I thought it was a car accident – there are usually a lot on this street,” he said. “Then I came outside and saw the lunch truck in flames.
Three police officers from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority stationed down the street were the first to respond to the fire and help some of the victims. Spokeswoman Heather Redfern said the officers helped two women who were badly burned, including one standing at the back of the truck and one sitting at a table nearby.” — ABC 13.com
When the Food Truck, La Parrillada Chapina,” exploded it also set a utility pole on fire.
Pieces of the four-foot propane tank which exploded were found up to about 150-feet away.
Olga and her daughter Jaylin Galdamez were killed, three other people were severely burned, and others were injured.
A civil complaint was filed against both the manager of the Hunting Park location and the U-Haul Corporation.
Manager Miguel Rivera was the actual person who refilled the propane tanks and was charged with violating federal hazardous materials regulations. Miguel Rivera has consistently maintained his innocence of these charges.
The claim was made that he improperly filled the propane tanks which caused the leak and therefore lead to the tragic explosion.
“The U-Haul’s employee who illegally filled this tank and did so repeatedly, blatantly violated the law,” said Attorney Robert Mongeluzzi.
The claim was also made that Rivera never trained and tested another employee who filled propane tanks at the U-Haul location so that he would be qualified to refill propane tanks.
While the manager was also part of the suit, since he was the actual person who filled the propane tanks, he had little financial resources to compensate for any damages. Such suits typically go after and include corporations such as U-Haul because the corporation have the “deepest pockets.”
There was neighborhood surveillance video which was captured when the explosion took place.
There are some details of the case which may never be clear since U-Haul has maintained that it did not fill the propane tanks which exploded. While they have regularly filled propane tanks, they consistently maintained that the manager had not filled these two tanks.
There are some details of the case which may never be clear. U-Haul has maintained that it did not fill the propane tanks which exploded. While they do regularly fill propane tank, they consistently maintained that the manager had not filled these tanks.
The investigation concluded that the explosion was likely caused by a leak in one of the two tanks.
What serves as proof?
That is the question which U-Haul had to determine in deciding whether to go forth with the case or not. Could they convince a judge or jury that they were not responsible since they had not refilled the propane tanks?
Tragic Accidents Happen!
“We want to ensure that this was an accidental explosion. We want to ensure this wasn’t anything criminal,” [Investigator] Small said. “The bomb squad is investigating to see if there is any foul play. That will be the result of a completed investigation.”
“A spokesman for U-Haul says the company did not fill the tanks.”
• Does a tragic situation mean someone is negligent?
• Do the operators of the food truck have any responsibility?
• Do we know that the explosion was caused by a propane leak?
• Did they know and/or had they been told by other “refillers” that the tanks were out of compliance? — We will never know for sure.
• Did the food truck owners go to refill stations where they would not be turned away?
• Was Rivera the person who filled these particular tanks? — He says he did not and there is no proof that he was the one who filled these two tanks.
• Was Rivera actually negligent in this particular tragic situation?
• Was U-Haul responsible because of the possible actions of another?
The only facts of the case were . . . .
The propane tanks were old and/or “damaged.”
Such propane gas cylinders are to be tested and recertified every 12 years.
Testing & Recertification: That would be noted by the stamping of the tank with the year of such testing and recertification
In this case, one cylinder was tested and recertified in 1995 — 19 years ago.
The other cylinder was manufactured in 1948 and had never been inspected — tested and recertified — since 1948.
That propane tank was 70 years old and had never been tested and recertified since its manufacturing in 1948.
Both tanks were “outdated” and should not have been refiled by anyone, but they had been.
No one who had refilled those two tanks had noticed, examined, cared, and maybe never even refused to refill it through all those 19 to 70 years.
→ The case was scheduled for trial — July 2018
→ Why did U-Haul settle the case before it went to trial?
→ Maybe this is why the U-Haul Corporation settled . . . .
Mom was 27 years old
Her daughter was 14 years old.
Is there enough proof when it involves the tragic loss of a young mother and her teenage daughter who were working together just to make a living on a food truck in Philidelphia?
“Alex Doe” — $69.17 million
“Jane Doe” — $54.35 million
The estate of “Sofia Smith” and “Maria Smith” — $36.7 million
Key Illustrative Thoughts:
Negligent: To not take the steps you ought to take, could have taken, should have taken and which lead to the harm or injury of another.
A lot of money, but what is a life worth?
How does society determine the worth of a life?
Riches attract people — (i.e., That is why “Doe” is used in the settlement agreements.).
Tragedy: Usually the necessary impetus to argue for and create needed changes.
Sometimes proof is sufficient when it gets really personal (i.e., My daughter or son was healed by Jesus).
What is “proof” to you?
What should be enough proof for others?
What is enough proof to find someone guilty?
What constitutes proof when the stakes are high?
Some questions will never be answered in life because we just don’t have the needed information.
We may never know! — ultimately.
* Other Information and links
“Minnesota Food Truck Association President John Levy said Wednesday he wants to change the best practice safety standards for his organization to include a daily inspection of propane tanks.
“We just formed a national food truck association, and when we heard about this accident actually we were all on the phone with one another,” Levy said. “[Food trucks are] a growing trend and it’s really wonderful. It creates jobs in Minnesota.”
Levy said about 80-90 percent of active food trucks in the Twin Cities are members of this association. Organizations that inspect food trucks and the frequency of inspections can vary depending on the county or city.
According to the City of Minneapolis, food trucks in Minneapolis are inspected by the Minneapolis Health Department when annual licenses are renewed.
Fire Inspection Services also inspects the trucks and the setup of the propane tank at the time of license application.
Once the trucks are operating, they are subject to random inspections on an annual basis and re-inspected if critical violations are found.”