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Home explosion lawsuit settled on sixth day of trial
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Home explosion lawsuit settled on sixth day of trial

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Attorneys in a civil lawsuit stemming from a 2016 home explosion that killed two people north of Mandan settled the case before it went to a jury.

Jeff Weikum, one of the attorneys representing the children of Clyde and Elizabeth Howe, said a resolution was reached the morning of Aug. 31 before jurors returned to the courtroom. The trial started Aug. 23. The details of the settlement are confidential.

The Howes died Dec. 14, 2016, in a home explosion that was blamed on a propane leak. Their children, including Elianna Vazquez who was 17 at the time and severely injured in the explosion, sought money damages from Tri-Energy Company and CHS, Inc. CHS was dismissed from the lawsuit.

The resolution came after six days of “very detailed and very compelling testimony from experts on what caused the explosion,” Weikum said. The lawsuit alleged that Tri-Energy Cooperative “failed to install a second-stage propane regulator consistent with recognized safety standards.” Snow fell from the house and damaged a regulator, which allowed the propane to leak in, Weikum said.

The family sees the resolution as fitting, the attorney said.

“The children feel it honors the memories of Clyde and Elizabeth, and gives them the ability now to make peace with that event,” Weikum said. “They went to court to get justice and got it.”

The case was dramatic “and very sad for the family,” defense attorney Michael Hutchens said. The settlement comes with no admission of wrongdoing by Tri-Energy Cooperative.

“I honestly don’t believe our clients did anything wrong,” Hutchens said. The defense team felt they probably would have gotten a favorable verdict, Hutchens said, “but at the same time the settlement was a reasonable amount to compensate the family for their losses.”

“I think we did what we were supposed to do,” he said.

Vazquez sued the same defendants over injuries caused to her by the explosion. She suffered broken ribs and a collapsed lung, and required surgery to fuse her shattered lower spine. The case was settled before it went to trial. The settlement amount is confidential.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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