Families File Wrongful Death Suit in Milwaukee Warehouse Explosion

February 9, 2007

The families of three factory employees killed in a warehouse explosion filed a wrongful death lawsuit, saying a contractor improperly installed a propane pipeline and should have ordered an evacuation sooner.

The propane blast at Falk Corp. shook downtown Dec. 6, killing the three men and injuring 46 people.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday names J.M. Brennan, the mechanical engineering firm helping Falk employees test a backup propane fuel system; Brennan’s insurance company, not identified in the suit; and Falk’s workers’ compensation carrier.

The lawsuit, which says the deaths caused the families pain, suffering and loss of companionship, seeks unspecified damages.

It claims that Brennan improperly replaced the pipeline in 1988; should have tested it before running propane through it; should have checked the pressure while doing so; and discouraged a quicker evacuation.

Brennan spokesman Jeffrey Remsik said his company followed installation guidelines and acted reasonably in encouraging people to evacuate. He admitted workers didn’t test the pipe but said that would have been Falk’s responsibility.

The Milwaukee County prosecutor and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating.

The suit claims that once the leak was detected, Falk employees asked whether they should evacuate and that Brennan indicated an evacuation was not necessary.

Habush said that rocks punctured the wrap around the underground pipeline and that the way Brennan installed it did not protect it from damage.

The company followed proper installation procedures, Remsik said. The freeze-and-thaw cycle likely contributed to the damage, he said.

Falk did not appear to be negligent and is not named in the suit, Habush said.

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