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$20M Verdict Upheld by Appellate Court

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Pengxuan "Dean" Diao was 23 years old when a Southern California Gas Co. employee opened a natural gas valve that activated a gas line that ran to the garage apartment where he was sleeping on January 19, 2011. The room filled with natural gas and exploded when Diao woke up and lit a cigarette.

In June 2014, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for a day and a half and found in favor of Diao. They awarded him nearly $20 million for the severe burn injuries he sustained. The jury found the Gas Co. was liable for around $18.1 million of that amount. Gas Co. admitted liability before trial. The jury's only task was to assess damages against them. Diao suffered second and third degree burns over 20 percent of his body, and brain damage that will likely cause him to have dementia when he is about 50.

Gas Co. appealed the verdict and argued that the evidence did not demonstrate the leak or explosion caused the injury and that evidence of Diao's brain injury was improperly included. Additionally, Gas Co. argued the damages were punitive, excessive and based on passion and prejudice. The state's appeals court upheld the jury's award.

When someone is injured or dies in an accident, financial recovery may be available. Such recovery is particularly important when permanent, life changing injuries are incurred. It is important to contact someone who understands the intricacies of the injured party's right to recover.

Abraham Watkins offers a free consultation to anyone wishing to pursue a claim for such injuries or fatalities.

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  • 2016-2017 Equal Access to Justice Champion

    The Equal Access to Justice Champions Program was started by the Houston Bar Association in 2006, to help ensure placement of Houston Volunteer Lawyers cases with pro bono volunteers. Originally, firms were tiered according to size, and firms within each tier committed to accept a certain number of pro bono cases from HVL each year for five years.

  • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers

    The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state or region who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase objective and uniformly applied process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers America | Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz | 2017

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  • Lead Counsel Rated

    In order to earn the Lead Counsel Rating, an attorney must not only demonstrate significant legal experience, but must also receive multiple peer recommendations advocating his or her ability. This is a key component in the screening process.

  • Texas Super Lawyers | Texas Monthly

    Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Texas via a patented multiphase selection process involving peer nomination, independent research and peer evaluation. The Texas lawyers who receive the highest point totals during this selection process are further recognized in Texas Super Lawyers Top Lists.

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  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented nearly 100 victims who suffered personal injuries and damages to property from a large fire and explosion resulting in a settlement of more than $50 million. The firm served as lead lawyers on the steering committee in this litigation.

  • $80 Million Personal Injury Large Plant Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 270 plaintiffs', taking a lead role in the plaintiffs' steering committee, who suffered injuries in a large plant explosion resulting in a settlement of nearly $80 million.

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Plant Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 45 personal injury victims in a plant fire and explosion, serving on the plaintiffs' steering committee, concluding with a settlement of more than $50 million.

  • $22+ Million Personal Injury Work Site Accident

    The firm prevailed in a personal injury trial for a worksite injury client with the jury returning a verdict and resulting in a judgment of over $22 million for the firm's client.

  • $12 Million Auto Accident 18-Wheeler Collision

    The firm successfully achieved a $12 million settlement for the family of a man who died in an 18 wheeler collision.

  • $30 Million Personal Injury Burn Victims

    The firm prevailed on behalf of three burn victims with settlements totaling nearly $30 million.

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