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Insurer seeks damages from 2010 gas explosion

Union Leader Correspondent

May 16. 2013 10:22PM

BRENTWOOD — A second lawsuit has been filed seeking damages after a gas explosion three years ago ignited a massive fire that killed a Stratham woman and destroyed part of a condominium complex.

Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company brought the civil suit last week against the owner and developer of the Sewall Farms condominiums and several other defendants following the explosion caused by a propane gas leak inside Lori Breard’s condominium at 16 Cortland Ave., Stratham, on June 23, 2010.

Liberty, which insured a condominium owned by Karen Bell that was connected to Breard’s unit, filed the suit in Rockingham County Superior Court in an attempt to recover the money it paid out for the damage to Bell’s condominium.

The latest suit comes two years after a wrongful death suit was filed by Chad DeVogt, Breard’s nephew and executor of her estate.

Both suits allege that propane built up in the basement of Breard’s condominium because a gas utility was improperly installed and certain protective measures were not put in place.

The defendants named in the suits are Sewall Farms Realty LLC, Sewall Farm Condominium Association, Hayden’s Yard Maintenance of Greenland, JRK Builders of North Hampton, D.F. Richard Inc. of Dover, United Mechanical Inc. of Brentwood and Irving Oil.

The wrongful death suit was scheduled for trial next month, but the trial date was recently moved to October.

Among other claims, the suits allege that a lawn mower from Hayden’s Yard Maintenance struck an unprotected gas pipe that protruded from the ground, causing the piping to leak and propane to build up in the basement.

All of the defendants have denied they’re liable for the explosion.

At the time of the explosion, the wrongful death suit said Breard, 56, was heading down the stairs to the basement of her condominium between 2 and 3 a.m. The blast pushed Breard part way back up the stairs and caused her to catch fire, the suit said. The condominium also went up in flames.

A neighbor rushed over and helped put out the fire on Breard’s body. She suffered second- and third-degree burns over her entire body, according to the lawsuit.

Breard was a well-known real estate agent who managed the Exeter and Portsmouth offices of The Masiello Group.

According to the suits, propane gas was stored in an underground tank and piped to an area near the condominium’s foundation. The gas piping came out of the ground and then passed through a regulator before entering the building through a wall.

The suits allege that the area where the piping stuck out of the ground and entered the regulator had no guard to protect it from mowing, trimming and other yard maintenance.

The gas utility was installed by D.F. Richard and United Mechanical Inc. The suits allege that the companies were negligent in the way the gas utility was installed and that the exposed piping wasn’t properly guarded.

The suits also claim that the condominium didn’t have a system in place to detect the buildup of gas in the basement and audibly warn residents.

Both suits seek unspecified monetary damages.

“The injuries to the decedent required treatment in the form of medical care and required her, and her estate, to expend sums of money for hospital, medical care and other related care, and funeral, burial, and other related end of life expenses,” the wrongful death suit said.

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