Gas leak, explosion in home leads to $19.8 million verdict for burn, traumatic brain injury victim’s lawsuit

by Eric Pearson

On January 19, 2011, an employee of SoCalGas arrived to service the gas system at a house in San Gabriel, California, where 24-year-old Plaintiff Pengxuan Diao and others lived. The SoCalGas employee opened a gas valve which activated a gas line running to the back house where Diao was sleeping. The employee then left the property without ensuring it was leak free, in violation of SoCalGas policy. The room that Diao was sleeping in filled up with some 300 cubic feet of natural gas.

About two hours after the gas leak began, Diao woke up and attempted to light a cigarette. The room exploded into flames. Diao caught on fire and was severely burned. He suffered second and third degree burns to over 20 percent of his body. He was also eventually diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury which has left him with permanent cognitive deficits.

Diao filed a personal injury lawsuit against SoCalGas, and the gas company, in turn, asserted claims against the building’s owners. Prior to trial, the gas company admitted liability. Thus, the jury was only asked to assess damages.

The jury awarded Diao a total of $19,876,818. The jury found SoCalGas liable for about $18.1 million and the remainder was assessed against the owners.

Hiring the right lawyer for a personal injury or wrongful death case

To successfully bring about a personal injury or wrongful death claim, clients need an experienced, educated attorney on their side. They also need an attorney with the financial resources to take the case to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have tried literally hundreds of cases to verdict and have settled hundreds more. In 2010 alone, we negotiated settlements of personal injury and wrongful death claims totaling more than $50 million.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson also has the financial resources to handle personal injury cases from beginning to end. In fact, there are many instances when we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a case in order to take it to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we are committed to achieving justice for our clients, whatever the cost.

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, our success stems from the fact that our attorneys are trial attorneys in the truest sense and have tried hundreds of cases to verdict. Among our team are numerous attorneys who are board certified* and who have been voted by their peers as Super Lawyers in the state of Texas for several years in a row.** Our firm is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service.

If you have suffered a serious personal injury or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or death as the result of the actions of another person or entity, you may have a claim for compensation. Contact us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001 or by filling out our online contact form for a free case evaluation and to learn more about your legal right to compensation.


* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

** Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.