$20M Verdict Upheld by Appellate Court

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.