JJ's Restaurant sues utilities, Time Warner in deadly Plaza explosion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Missouri Gas Energy, Time Warner Cable and a utility worker are among several defendants named in a lawsuit filed by the owner of JJ's Restaurant.

The eatery on the iconic Country Club Plaza was leveled after a deadly explosion on Feb. 19. More than a dozen people were hurt in the blast, which killed restaurant employee Megan Cramer.

The explosion occurred after a gas line was struck while a contracting company, Heartland Midwest, was digging in the area.

FULL COVERAGE | JJ's Restaurant explosion kshb.com/plazafire

Heartland Midwest was named in the lawsuit filed May 3, along with Missouri Gas Energy, MGE's parent company Southern Union, Time Warner Cable, USIC Locating Services and Michael Palier, who works for MGE and was injured in the blast.

USIC is the company responsible for marking the gas lines.

The lawsuit alleges that Heartland Midwest was "drilling blind" when it struck the gas line, and that Palier and MGE were negligent in failing to promptly staunch the flow of gas from the ruptured pipeline. It also claims that Palier was not equipped with readily accessible shutoff valves as required by law.

Time Warner released the following statement about the litigation:

"The investigation into this tragedy is ongoing. This lawsuit, or any comment about it, is premature until the investigation is complete and we know the facts."

Heartland Midwest also released a statement about the lawsuit:

"The events of February 19th were tragic. Heartland Midwest understands that JJ's suffered significant losses and Heartland joins the Greater Kansas City community in sympathizing with those losses. At the same time, Heartland will use the litigation process to defend itself while also looking at ways to prevent events like this from happening in the future."

In the lawsuit, all three plaintiffs -- listed as JJ's Bar and Grill, JJ's Building and restaurant owner Jimmy Frantze -- are seeking unspecified damages in excess of $25,000 each.

Several JJ's employees filed a lawsuit against MGE, Heartland Midwest, Time Warner, Missouri One Call System, Inc., USIC and Palier in March.

A Heartland Midwest employee who was seriously hurt in the explosion, Mike Tanner, is also suing MGE.

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