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Family of woman killed in chocolate factory explosion sues employer


The family of a woman who was among seven workers killed when a natural gas line exploded at a chocolate factory in West Reading, Pennsylvania, in March is suing the employer and 10 other defendants for wrongful death.

According to the suit, filed Tuesday in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, the owners of the R.M. Palmer Co. failed to evacuate workers on March 24 when several complained of smelling gas at the factory, which was leveled when it exploded at about 5 p.m. that day. Those operating the gas line, individuals charged with maintaining the line, and parent companies are also named as defendants in Edith Ruiz v. UGI Corp. et al.

The complaint, filed by the family of Judith Lopez-Moran, states that the owners of the factory “were responsible for ensuring that the Factory was in safe condition and that the workers at the Factory were provided a safe place in which to work” and that they “received numerous instances of actual notice, warnings, and complaints concerning a suspected, potential, and/or actual gas leak at the Factory, including on the date of the explosion.”

“Despite this aforementioned knowledge… (the company) knowingly failed to evacuate the workers from the Factory and failed to immediately contact the appropriate authorities to determine the source of the gas leak and thus knowingly exposed the workers, including Judith Lopez-Moran, to an unreasonable and unacceptable risk of severe injury and/or death,” the complaint states.

The suit, which seeks “sums in excess of the jurisdictional threshold in damages, exclusive of interest, costs, punitive damages and delay damages” accuses the defendants of “carelessness, negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and other liability-producing conduct.” 

The company could not be reached for comment Wednesday.