On October 19, 2016, a powerful explosion ripped through Portland’s Northwest 23rd Avenue area. A natural gas line maintained by Loy Clark Pipeline exploded, leveling some buildings, and shattering windows in many others nearby.
Gail Needham was working in one of those nearby buildings as a dental hygienist. The force of the explosion shattered the windows of the examination room where she was working with a patient, pushing her to the floor, sending glass shards into her back, and giving her a concussion. Needham filed a lawsuit against Loy Clark this week — the first such suit following the blast.
Needham is still suffering the effects of the blast today. She still has trouble seeing, experiences ringing in her ears, and has suffered hearing loss, according to her lawsuit. Her doctor said Needham could only then started reading again a year after the explosion, but still has “bad days” when she couldn’t read at all. She also still suffers from headaches and post-traumatic stress disorder, and has only been able to return to work part-time.
Needham is suing Loy Clark for $20,000 in lost wages, $19,000 in medical bills, and an additional $650,000 for pain, suffering, and interference with her daily activities.
Loy Clark, for its part, has admitted fault in the explosion, and spokesperson Andrea Blessum told the Oregonian that the company and its insurer have settled or closed around 88 percent of all claims filed in response to the explosion. “I’d like to believe the number of claims we’ve closed is a sign that we’re working with people who’ve been impacted to do what we can to help them recover.”
Needham’s attorney, Jason Kafoury, said settlement talks with the company’s insurer have been unsuccessful because his client’s medical bills are still accumulating and her physical condition hasn’t stabilized yet.
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined Loy Clark Pipeline dug into a sidewalk without first checking to see if there were natural gas lines underneath, and fined the company $4,900 for safety violations.