Broward County

Plantation explosion victims want to sue. But officials haven’t said who could be liable.

Three days after an explosion at a Plantation shopping plaza that injured at least 23 people, at least five victims have hired a well-known law firm to seek compensation for their injuries, lawyers representing the group said Tuesday.

“This is not some sort of lightning strike out of the blue, some sort of act of nature. What happened here in almost all instances is because some company or some individual disregarded their obligations,” said attorney William Lewis, of the Florida law firm Morgan & Morgan.

State and local officials have yet to release details on what caused the explosion at a vacant pizza parlor near the Fountains Plaza, a busy mall off University Drive in Broward.

At a press conference Tuesday, Lewis did not offer details on his clients’ current conditions or the extent of their injuries. He said the firm was “concerned” about lasting brain injuries resulting from the explosion, aside from other spinal and disk injuries.

Lewis said the firm has not filed any formal lawsuits because they are waiting for an official investigation from law enforcement and the state Fire Marshal to determine who is responsible.

Once that has been finalized, he said, attorneys will conduct their own investigation.

“You don’t want to shoot first and ask questions later,” he said.

Rick Moses, the head of the state program in charge of natural gas safety and inspections told the Herald on Monday he hoped to have an answer on what led to the blast by the end of the week.

Lewis speculated Peoples Gas, which manages gas lines in the area of the incident, could be one of the focuses of their probe.

“They were the gas provider in this instance and as I mentioned before, gas lines don’t just rupture. That should not ever happen. What we need to determine is why it happened,” Lewis said.

A spokesperson for Peoples Gas said in a statement that the company “found no natural gas leaks” in its system. On Monday, the company said it had not done any work in the area that could have led to a rupture.

The owner of the vacant pizza parlor, Pizzafire, could also be held liable for the incident, Lewis said. The pizzeria was in a strip mall across the street from the Fountains.

As of Tuesday, at least one person remained in the hospital in “fair” condition, according to a spokesperson for Broward Health Medical Center.

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Bianca Padró Ocasio is a general assignment reporter for the Miami Herald. She has been a Florida journalist for several years, covering everything from crime and courts to hurricanes and politics. Her bilingual work telling the stories of the Puerto Rican community in Central Florida has been previously recognized by the Florida Society of News Editors and the Florida Sunshine State Awards.
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