Fort Worth, Texas hotel explosion: Atmos sues property owner –

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The explosion, which happened Jan. 8, injured 21 people, including one woman who was critically hurt. No one died in the blast.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Atmos Energy, the North Texas natural gas provider company, wants a judge to absolve it from responsibility in the downtown Fort Worth hotel explosion earlier this month, according to recent court filings.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 26 in Tarrant County District Court, Atmos’ attorneys wrote that evidence will show that the gas leak that caused the explosion was “located somewhere within” the Sandman Hotel, and not on an Atmos line that provides gas to the hotel.

On Tuesday, WFAA reached out to Northland — the hotel’s property owners — for comment on the Atmos filing, but did not immediately hear back.

The explosion, which happened Jan. 8, injured 21 people, including one woman who was critically injured. She is now in good condition, Parkland Hospital said Tuesday. 

No one died in the blast.

In the weeks that followed, lawsuits mounted against hotel property owner Northland Developments, Atmos and hotel management.

One of the lawsuits accused defendants of being negligent in the upkeep and maintenance of natural gas utilities, and not taking the necessary precautions to ensure safety.

But Atmos officials have said their system was not involved in the explosion, and that none of their systems that provide gas to the hotel were leaking.

With their filing, which was submitted last week, Atmos attorneys are seeking two things.

First, they want injunctive relief to preserve evidence at the scene of the explosion, with the filing saying the evidence will show that hotel property ownership and management “bear legal responsibility for the explosion” and that those parties “have little incentive to proactively preserve or protect the critical evidence from spoilation” at the scene.

“That’s normal,” said attorney Ted Lyon, who has sued Atmos before, but is not connected to this case. “They want to be sure that when they have people go in and examine the evidence, they have some of their people there, some of their experts.”

But the delay in cleanup, which has already been stopped due to a separate restraining order in the case, is causing big problems for businesses along 8th Street across from the hotel. 

“It’s been horrible,” said Lisa Jackson, the owner of nearby La’Creamian ice cream parlor. “Foot traffic is very important to the health of my business — extremely important to the health of my business.”

Losing that lifeline is strangling her 8-month-old business. 

“I understand there’s a process, but this can be done way better, where we won’t have to suffer on our part as well,” Jackson said.

Atmos also wants a judge to issue a declaratory judgement that says Atmos’ facilities “did not proximately cause or contribute to the explosion,” and that Atmos is not liable for damages.

“Atmos Energy is not responsible for any property damage caused to the Hotel or any other damage claimed by Northland,” the filing asked a judge to declare.

But Lyon said that specific type of declaration is unusual. 

“I’ve never seen it before — not in one of these explosion cases,” he said, adding that it may not be a legally valid argument. 

A ruling on the case has not yet been made, but Lyon said the litigation to approve the cleanup could take months. Other lawsuits could stretch years. 

Said Lyon: “I’ve had major explosion cases that lasted four or more years by the time they went to the appellate process.”

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