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June 28, 2018

Pre-verdict $160M settlement in food truck explosion case breaks Pa. court records

The 2014 explosion in Feltonville killed a food truck's owner, her daughter and injured two others

Settlements Explosions
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In the largest pre-trial settlement in Pennsylvania's court history, rental company U-Haul and several victims of a 2014 food truck explosion in North Philadelphia reached a $160 million pre-trial settlement, lawyers announced on Wednesday.

The food truck owner, Olga Galdamez, and her daughter, Jaylin, both died from burn-related injuries in the July 2014 explosion in Feltonville that investigators say was caused by a leak in one of the truck's propane tanks. 

Galdamez took her tanks to a U-Haul subsidiary where they were filled, despite being outdated, missing required safety valves and eventually being overfilled with no room for gases inside the tanks to expand, WHYY reported. Their truck, La Parrillada Chapina, and a utility pole were set on fire. Two other victims were severely injured in the explosion.

One plaintiff will receive $69.17 million, a second will receive $54.3 million and the estates of Olga and Jaylin Galdamez will receive $36.47 million, the Associated Press reported. Each plaintiff will receive an additional confidential settlement agreement.

The Legal Intelligencer is calling the settlement the "largest global pre-trial personal injury settlement in Pennsylvania history."

U-Haul told the AP the company did not fill the tank involved in the explosion and is still maintaining its innocence, however the company has reportedly added additional safety changes to its propane program since 2014.

Sebastien Reyes, vice president of Communications at U-Haul, said the "continued sympathies of everyone at U-Haul Co. of Pennsylvania...are with the individuals and families affected" in an email statement to PhillyVoice.

Here's the full statement: 

A propane cylinder that could have been filled at a U-Haul location was part of the explosion and fire. U-Haul and its insurance carriers worked to provide a monetary settlement, and all injured parties have been compensated. More than 50 attorneys, a judge, a mediator, several injured parties, and multiple defendants were involved in this process.

The exact events surrounding the 2014 tragedy may never be known. While U-Haul routinely fills propane cylinders for the food industry, U-Haul maintains that it did not fill the propane cylinder involved in this tragedy.

 U-Haul thanks plaintiffs’ counsel in recognizing our defense was in a responsible and transparent manner, and there was persistent compassion shown to the individuals involved. Likewise, for acknowledging our commitment to propane safety and the efforts made in further safeguarding our propane safety program.

The case was set to go to trial next week.