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Durham man sues gas company for bathroom explosion

Two years ago, Anthony Terry walked into the bathroom of his Durham rental house and flipped on the light switch. The room exploded. 

“Thirty-two percent of his body suffered second and third degree burns. Face, forehead, eyelids, neck, chest, back, both arms, hands, both legs,” said his attorney Michael Malone. “That doesn’t leave much else.”

Malone filed a lawsuit that claimed a natural gas leak at the home on Colfax Street caused the explosion. The lawsuit said the gas provider and landlord had both been negligent.

A neighbor noticed the odor of gas and contacted the Public Service Company of North Carolina, the natural gas provider for the residence, Malone said. The gas company visited the area to inspect but didn’t turn off the gas.

Then, the bathroom exploded. 

Malone said there was significant structural damage around the bathroom and the roof was blown out. 

According to the lawsuit, PSNC had responsibility to keep gas from escaping into the home and properly repair leaky gas lines. But PSNC responded that the company wasn’t to blame.

“(Terry) failed to take reasonable care to avoid his alleged injuries, and therefore was contributorily negligent,” PSNC wrote in a court filing. 

Terry, 53, contends that his landlord William Lucas was negligent, too. He had a duty to ensure “rental premises are maintained in a fit and habitable condition,” the lawsuit said. But the landlord’s attorney Robert Levin responded that Lucas didn’t know there was any problem with the home. 

“He was never notified about anything,” Levin said.

After the explosion, Terry was a patient in the burn unit at UNC for four and a half months. 

“He has severe skin discoloration from where he was burned,” Malone said. “He can’t really go outside. He lays in bed a lot and tried to keep off his feet.”

Now, Terry is asking for damages in excess of $25,000. The case is scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 28, 2020.

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