Former JJ's manager files lawsuit seeking damages one year after explosion

KANSAS CITY, - Nearly one year after JJ’s Restaurant exploded on the Country Club Plaza, restaurant manager William Matthew Nichols and his wife Tuesday filed a petition for damages.

Nichols’ attorney, Lou Accurso, named Time Warner Cable Midwest, Heartland Midwest, USIC Locating Services and Heartland contractor Michael Tanner as defendants in the lawsuit.

You can read the entire lawsuit here.

Nichols was working the afternoon of Feb. 19, 2013, the day Heartland Midwest contractors struck a 2-inch gas line while tunneling underground to lay fiber optic cable for Time Warner.

Heartland called 911 to report the leak. Missouri Gas Energy arrived on the scene, along with the Kansas City Fire Department. But according to a recently released report from the Missouri Public Service Commission, MGE told KCFD they had the situation under control.

Read the complete report here.

It also states due to that negligence, carelessness and recklessness of the defendants, Nichols suffered and will continue to suffer from psychological and emotional injuries, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

41 Action News reached out to the parties named in the lawsuit. The attorney for Mike Tanner declined to comment.

Brad Russell, the attorney representing Heartland Midwest, sent the following statement:

We feel that the recent exhaustive analysis set forth in the report from the Missouri Public Service Commission is a more than adequate response to the allegations in this recently filed Petition. The Commission’s report concludes that if USIC, the line locating service, had disclosed the proper number of lines in the area that Heartland’s crew would have likely avoided hitting the gas line. We see no reason to disagree with that conclusion.

It would seem that Mr. Nichols and his attorneys have had an adequate opportunity to review the report and its conclusions regarding MGE and conduct after the line was struck. We cannot explain the thought process of another party. Certainly, JJ’s itself has made many allegations and claims against MGE.

Heartland will vigorously defend its interests and denies any claims of negligence for injuries sustained in the explosion and fire.

The lawsuit accuses Heartland of ignoring information available from USIC’s markings which according to the PSC report, led Heartland to confuse the electrical line and gas line markings.

 

Nichols’ lawsuit seeks punitive damages and states Nichols suffered physical and emotional injuries as a result of the explosion and fire caused by the defendants’ negligence.

 

Nichols joins seven other former JJ’s employees who also filed two other lawsuits. Eleven lawsuits have now been filed in connection with the 2013 explosion.

The first lawsuit is set to go to trial in July of 2015.

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