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December 16th, 2010

Gas Thieves Beat Gas Company in St. Landry Parish

The December edition of The Louisiana Jury Verdict Reporter further illustrates why this year’s Judicial Hellholes® report, for the first time, includes St. Landry Parish, Louisiana among its “Watch List” jurisdictions.  Earlier this year, a parish court awarded over $15 million to the family of Carl Jones Sr., who had jerry-rigged a gas connection to his home back in 2003 after Centerpoint Energy had cut off the gas for nonpayment.  Mr. Jones broke the lock installed by the gas company with a wrench and restored fugitive service to the home.  The house exploded in the middle of the night when sparked by an occupant’s cigarette or an appliance, according to varying reports.  The award was increased to $22 million reflecting interest (the case was initially filed in 2004).  But because Mr. Jones was found 50% at fault in the accident, the gas company is left responsible for $11 million.

Shamelessly, Mr. Jones’ family claimed the gas company used a flimsy lock to secure the connection and should have foreseen that its customers would break it in order to steal gas.  Mr. Jones also had allegedly left an open gas line into the house and removed the gas meter to hide the theft.  Sadly, Mr. Jones’ wife, children, and grandchildren suffered significant burns in the explosion, and this, presumably, led the St. Landry Parish jury to return such a hefty verdict for them in just three hours.

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