The massive natural gas leak in Los Angeles, which is still ongoing, may have claimed its first victim. A family is suing the company responsible for the leak for wrongful death, saying exposure to the gas contributed to an elderly woman’s death.
The woman died on Jan. 25 at age 79, about three months after a methane pipeline owned by Southern California Gas Co. was found to be leaking. She was battling stage 4 lung cancer when she died, and her family is not blaming SoCal Gas for the disease. However, they believe that the woman was poisoned by exposure to methane in the gas, and that this poisoning hastened her death.
Their lawsuit says that the woman continued to lead an active life despite cancer, driving herself around, going to lunch with friends and taking cruises. Then, in the weeks after the leak began, her condition rapidly worsened. Her breathing grew more difficult and she became dependent on an oxygen machine by December, when her family put her in the hospital.
The family believes that SoCal Gas could have stopped the leak quickly if the ruptured well had a subsurface safety valve. It used to, but SoCal Gas allegedly removed the valve in 1979.
This is one of more than 20 lawsuits filed against the company since the leak began, according to Reuters. It is the largest natural gas leak in the history of California. City, county and state officials have also filed civil claims against the company, which is owned by San Diego-based Sempra Energy.