James Payne

Nine Port Arthur residents are suing a neighbor and a gas company over a fire that damaged their homes.

Terrell Clark Sr., Sabrina Clark, Terrell Clark Jr., Jesus Diaz, Juan Diaz, Juana Ayala Diaz, Phyllis Fontenette, Russell Fontenette and Kyrin Shaw filed a lawsuit July 7 in Jefferson County District Court against Texas Gas Company and Gilbert Adolph Kasper.

They say a fire severely damaged their properties at 2300 Green Ave., 2316 Green Ave., 2337 Green Ave., and 2319 Green Ave. on May 11, 2008.

A local television station reported that the fire occurred when a house at 2308 Green Ave. exploded at around 4:30 a.m. The Port Arthur Fire Marshall gave the cause as a natural gas leak in the attic, according to the news report.

The explosion damaged several properties and could be felt blocks away, the report stated. There were no major injuries.

In the suit defendant Kasper's address is listed as 2308 Green Ave., and he is named as the property owner on the Web site of the Jefferson County Appraisal District.

The plaintiffs allege Texas Gas and Kasper failed to maintain the subject lines, failed to properly inspect the lines, failed to properly train their employees, failed to ensure that employees are properly qualified and failed to warn its customers of a leak, the suit states.

Because of the fire, the plaintiffs have incurred repair costs, lost the use of their residences, incurred medical expenses and endured pain, suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment and lost wages, the complaint says.

The plaintiffs are seeking actual damages within the minimum jurisdictional limits of Jefferson County District Court, plus pre-judgment interest, attorney's fees, conditional awards in the event of an appeal, costs and other relief to which they may be entitled.

James E. Payne and Jennifer Job Seale of Provost Umphrey Law Firm in Beaumont will be representing them.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A184-458.

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