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Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2002

Plaintiffs hopeful about gas explosion lawsuit

February 21, 2002

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— Attorneys representing plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Kansas Gas Service over the Hutchinson natural gas explosions say the case should be resolved sometime next year.

The suit, against Kansas Gas Service and its parent company, ONEOK of Tulsa, Okla., seeks damages for the gas explosions on Jan. 17 and 18 last year that led to two deaths and destroyed two downtown businesses.

Kansas Gas Service should pay for lower property values, declining business and vacant rentals caused by last year's gas crisis, the attorneys told clients and prospective enrollees in a class-action lawsuit during a meeting Tuesday night.

Some in the crowd of about 150 said they were optimistic about their chances of recovering damages.

"I'm encouraged, myself," said business owner Alice States.

Also encouraging was the attorneys' notion that recovery for sagging home and business values was a possibility.

Using regional property valuation models, the attorneys said they could demonstrate that housing sales and rental occupancy rates have been negatively affected by the explosions.

Jim Frickleton, a lead attorneys, said the case is set for an early-spring class certification conference before Reno County District Judge Richard Rome.

When class is certified, discovery will begin, Frickleton said, largely focusing on internal ONEOK documents. Despite the slow civil litigation, he said he expects some resolution by the middle of 2003.

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