- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 25, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - After five weeks of testimony, lawyers presented closing arguments Tuesday in the civil trial involving a fatal explosion more than two years ago at a Kansas City restaurant.

The civil lawsuit stems from the February 2013 natural-gas explosion and fire that destroyed JJ’s restaurant, killed a restaurant employee and injured 15 others.

David Frantze and his brother Jimmy Frantze, who operated the popular JJ’s restaurant with manager Matt Nichols, have been seeking more than $9 million in damages from Time Warner Cable and USIC Locating Services, which contracts with utility companies.

Missouri Gas Energy earlier settled a complaint alleging it failed to take adequate safety measures. In the March settlement, the company denied violating safety rules.

Ken Snow, a lawyer representing Time Warner Cable urged the jury Tuesday to find Missouri Gas Energy solely at fault for the fire and explosion, The Kansas City Star reported (https://bit.ly/1U53RKw )

“Missouri Gas Energy owns all of the responsibility,” Snow told the Jackson County jury as they prepared to begin deliberations.

Snow also criticized the amount of damages being sought. He said the value of the plaintiffs’ loss would be just more than $3.2 million.

David Helms, representing USIC, said MGE repeatedly failed to follow its emergency protocols.

“There’s no way that fault should be assessed against USIC,” he said.

But the plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that both Time Warner Cable and USIC Locating Services botched their duties the day of the blast and should be held responsible.

“The next time it might be a hospital, a school, a library or office building,” said attorney Steven Emerson.

USIC incorrectly marked the location of underground utility lines, Emerson said in his closing argument. And, Time Warner Cable didn’t appear to show sufficient interest in the drilling project, even though it involved horizontal directional drilling underground in a dense urban environment with a multitude of subsurface utility lines, he said.


Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com

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