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Home / Top Legal News / Estate of mechanic killed by gas explosion settles for $7.5M

Estate of mechanic killed by gas explosion settles for $7.5M

The estate of a 21-year-old mechanic killed when a cylinder containing nitrous oxide exploded has settled several claims against the defendant company for $7.5 million, its attorneys report. 

James Roberts III and Matthew Quinn of Lewis & Roberts in Raleigh represented the decedent, who worked with his father in his father’s automobile repair shop. The attorneys report that the explosion occurred after the man attached a heating pad (a common practice, the plaintiffs assert) to the cylinder and was transferring the gas into a smaller bottle.


“The cylinder violently exploded, dismembering the decedent and killing him instantly,” the attorneys wrote in an email to Lawyers Weekly. “Decedent’s wife, father, and stepmother were in the mechanic shop at the time of the explosion but did not suffer bodily injuries.” 

Many details of the case, including names of the parties, defense counsel, and venue, were withheld due to a confidentiality agreement. 

The attorneys said that it is customary for those involved in drag racing, as the plaintiffs were, to use nitrous oxide to significantly boost the horsepower of gasoline engines. The defendant sold nitrous oxide stored inside cylinders it leased to customers, the attorneys said, and the cylinder at the center of this case was manufactured in 1979 but was recertified for use by the defendant in 2017. 

The plaintiffs argued that significant rust inside the cylinder violently reacted with the nitrous oxide when the cylinder was heated and that a “reasonable and proper” inspection in 2017 required that the rust be discovered and cleaned. 


The defendant argued that the decedent was contributorily negligent because he failed to heed the warning label stating that the cylinder may explode if heated and that the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by terms and conditions of the sale purporting to release the defendant from liability in the event of death or serious injury. 


Amount: $7.5 million

Injuries alleged: Death, negligent infliction of emotional distress

Case name: Withheld

Court: Withheld

Mediator: Robert Beason

Date of settlement: April 5 

Special damages: Approximately $1 million for loss of services to the estate; approximately $25,000 for medical expenses for mental health providers; and approximately $250,000 in property damage

Most helpful experts: Thomas Eagar (metallurgist); Jonathan Balbi of Airgenics; Michael Maddox of Sisyphus Associates; J.C. Poindexter, Ph.D. (economist); Richard Roby of Combustion Science & Engineering; Michael Sutton of Accident Reconstruction Analysis; Dr. Bruce Capehart (psychiatrist); and Roger Moore, Ph.D., (clinical and forensic psychologist)

Insurance carrier: Withheld

Attorneys for plaintiff: James Roberts III and Matthew Quinn of Lewis & Roberts in Raleigh

Attorney(s) for defendant: Withheld

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