A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit over the August explosion at Minnehaha Academy that alleged that CenterPoint Energy contractors “ran to save themselves” rather than warn people about a natural gas leak, an attorney for the family and a utility spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The Aug. 2 explosion at the south Minneapolis private school wounded nine and killed part-time custodian John F. Carlson, 82, and receptionist Ruth Berg, 47. Berg’s mother and daughter brought the suit in Hennepin County District Court, naming CenterPoint Energy and Master Mechanical, the Eagan company contracted to move gas meters out of the building, as defendants.
“The case from the Bergs’ side has been settled completely,” said Fred Pritzker, an attorney for the family.
Rebecca Virden, a spokeswoman for CenterPoint, added that the case was settled “on terms mutually agreed to by plaintiffs” and the utility.
Master Mechanical declined to address the settlement, and all three parties declined to field questions about the terms.
However, court records show that a “proposed order for distribution” was filed Thursday, a term that indicates the settlement involves a monetary exchange.
The lawsuit alleged that CenterPoint and Master Mechanical made several critical mistakes that led to the explosion, which occurred when school was not yet in session. Neither CenterPoint nor a team from Master Mechanical told school officials about the “high degree of danger” posed by moving the gas meter, according to the suit filed in Hennepin County, which asked for at least $50,000 in damages.
They also failed to close shut-off valves disconnecting the supply line from the old meter, causing gas to flow into a confined pit area where it would accumulate and explode, the lawsuit says.
A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report said two workers evacuated the area after failing to contain the leak. A final report from the agency is pending.
Pritzker said he knew of only the two Master Mechanical employees being at the site that day, but no CenterPoint supervisors.