Bowling Green, Kentucky
Natural Gas Supply Line Failure

The Project

A gas fire destroyed four homes in Bowling Green , Kentucky on a frigid January evening following an ice storm which left the ground frozen and cover by a continuous sheet of ice about 3 to 5 inches thick. Overnight lows had been 5 to 15 degrees below 0 F.

The Site

The client Gas Company requested my presence during the subsequent excavation of their 2 inch steel gas main. The gas main is located parallel to the pavement edge about 5 to 10 feet beneath the road surface. A water service line crossed the paved street as evidenced by the trench repair patch in the asphalt which crossed the street near the location of the fires.

The Problem

Upon excavating the 2 inch gas main at the location of the water service line, a break was located, and the gas main was bent and deformed. It appeared that the damage to this line had probably been caused by a backhoe bucket. Research indicated that the water service line was originally installed by the local utility company through a local utility contractor in 1979. There was no record that the gas company had been contacted at any time about possible damage to their gas line in this area.

The Cause

Metallurgical testing on the failed 2 inch gas main concluded that the break was brittle, and probably sudden and was caused by a combination of the stresses within the pipe due to the prior damage and the very cold temperatures which caused the steel to change from the ductile to brittle range. The cold temperatures were able to reach the gas pipe because the water service line granular backfill material had eroded away over the years into underlying cavities within the limestone bedrock.

The Resolution

The case was tried with the homeowners as Plaintiff and the Gas Company as the defendant. The local utility company, the local utility contractor, and engineer who designed the water distribution system were third party defendants. The jury awarded the defendants $690,000 in actual and punitive damaged assessed 100% against the gas company.

The Attorney Client

For the Defendant Gas Company:

Mr. Charles E. English, Jr.
English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley
Attorneys At Law
1101 College Street
P.O. Box 770
Bowling Green , Kentucky 42102-0770
(502) 781 6500


For additional information concerning this case, you may contact:

P. O. Box 130
Nicholasville , Kentucky 40340-0130


Copyright 2004 Richard Cheeks