Case Study: Successful defence in gas station injury case

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The Plaintiff alleged that he sustained injuries after a gas explosion when he was filling up his vehicle with LPG.
Australia Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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Holman Webb Lawyers recently successfully defended proceedings in the District Court in the case of Loney v Luthra Group Pty Ltd t/as Sussex Inlet Service Station (No 2).

Background to the case

Mr Loney alleged that on 1 March 2020, he sustained injuries after an eruption and explosion of extremely cold gas and vapour whilst filling up his vehicle with liquid petroleum gas (LPG) at the Defendant's service station.

CCTV footage depicted Mr Loney engaging the trigger lock and leaving it engaged whilst he attempted to unscrew the filler head.

Mr Loney gave evidence that one of the Defendant's employees conceded that a leak had taken place and that leaks had occurred in the past.

The Defendant denied that there was a gas leak and relied on expert evidence from Dr Casey that Mr Loney's actions caused the release of gas. It was also noted that Elgas, who was not a party, owned and operated the LPG system and would have been responsible for fixing any gas leak.

District Court decision

For the reasons noted below, the Court found that the Plaintiff has not established that any gas leak had taken place and that, accordingly, there was no breach of duty of care:

(a) The CCTV footage shows that Mr Loney engaged the trigger lock or latch and left it engaged whilst he attempted to unscrew the filler head. It was only after the gas had discharged that Mr Loney disengaged the trigger lock, and there was no further gas discharge after that.

(b) The evidence from Dr Casey was accepted that Mr Loney's actions in engaging the trigger lock and using too much force in frustration caused the release.

(c) There is an absence of any corroborating evidence that the Defendant's employee admitted that there was a leak in the gas system.

(d) The investigations following the incident found no such leak, and no contemporaneous documentary evidence was consistent with a gas leak.

(e) Elgas owned and operated the LPG system and produced a large volume of material on Subpoena, which did not include any documents concerning any gas leak.

(f) No explanation was provided as to the mechanism by which a gas leak could have caused the discharge.

(g) The logic of events is inconsistent with there being a leak at all, noting that there was no cost to the Defendant in having any gas leak repaired by Elgas. There was, therefore, no disincentive for the Defendant to have complained if there was an issue.

(h) The Court was not persuaded that Mr Loney's recollection of the events, including his conversation with the Defendant's employee, was entirely accurate.

(i) Mr Loney could refuel his truck without incident the previous week, which is inconsistent with any gas leak at the time.

Despite Mr Loney's own substantial contribution to his accident, the Court was not prepared to find any contributory negligence as any momentary inadvertence on the part of Mr Loney was insufficient.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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