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Jury Blames Time Warner for Fatal Explosion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - A Missouri jury awarded $5.9 million in damages against Time Warner for a February 2013 explosion that killed a woman and injured 15 others at a Kansas City restaurant.

The Jackson County jury found Time Warner 98 percent responsible for the gas explosion at JJ's Restaurant, and the restaurant responsible for the other 2 percent.

The restaurant and its owner James Frantze sued Time Warner Cable Midwest and others in May 2013, seeking more than $9 million in damages for the explosion that killed server Megan Cramer, 46, and destroyed the restaurant.

Customers were evacuated but JJ's employees were still working inside the building when it exploded.

Also sued were Southern Union Company dba Missouri Gas Energy, Heartland Midwest LLC, USIC Locating Services and Michael A. Palier, a Missouri Gas Energy employee who responded to calls about a gas leak at the restaurant.

Missouri Gas Energy and Heartland Midwest were dismissed from the case before the five-week trial began in July.

Frantze blamed the explosion on a "series of negligent acts," including Missouri Gas Energy's and USIC's failure to ascertain and mark the depth of a 2-inch gas main that defendant Heartland Midwest, a Time Warner subcontractor, damaged while drilling.

More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed against many of the same defendants, most claiming that a combination of erroneous markings and miscommunications caused the explosion and that Missouri Gas Energy failed to evacuate the restaurant before the explosion.

Megan Cramer's parents, Carter and Genevieve Cramer, settled a wrongful death lawsuit last year for an undisclosed amount.

"We know no court decision can undo this tragedy," Time Warner spokesman Mike Hogan said in a statement Thursday after the jury verdict. "We'll take some time to review the court's decision before deciding our next step in this case."

The restaurant's attorney Steven Emerson said after the verdict: "If any good can come out of this tragedy, then it would be big companies paying more attention to their contractors and paying more attention to the law and trying to follow it when they're installing underground utilities in our city."

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