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Silver Spring explosion victims sue Washington Gas, complex management

Gustavo Torres, of CASA, announces class-action suits against Kay Management and Washington Gas in the wake of an explosion in the Flower Branch Apartments Aug. 10. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

Editor’s Note: This story was updated Nov. 2 at 4:30 p.m. to include a response from Kay Apartment Communities. 

WASHINGTON — A group representing the victims of a fatal explosion and fire that happened at the Flower Branch complex in August is suing Washington Gas and the company that manages the complex.

The group CASA, which advocates for low-income women, workers and tenants, announced two lawsuits against Washington Gas and Kay Apartment Communities at about 10 a.m. in front of the offices of Washington Gas, in D.C.

Seven people died and more than 30 were injured Aug. 10 when a gas explosion tore through the Flower Branch Apartments.

More than 80 families were displaced from their homes.

Two suits have been filed in D.C. Superior Court: A personal-injury and wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of 30 plaintiffs — relatives of those killed, and the people who were hurt — and a class-action suit involving members of 75 households who were affected by the explosion.

Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA, said that the victims were looking for compensation, but that money wasn’t the only issue.

“Seven people died, but no one is saying who is responsible,” Torres said. “Neither the state, nor the county, nor the federal government, has stepped forward to give the victims the answers they are entitled to.”

He added that if the explosion had happened in a wealthy neighborhood, “I guarantee you that we [would] have an answer immediately.”

No dollar amount is specifically stated in the lawsuit, said John Barrett, a lawyer with the law firm Bailey & Glasser, one of two firms partnering with CASA to pursue legal action on behalf of the victims.

He said lawyers and residents have asked for information from government agencies and Washington Gas since August.

“They have delayed and danced around our demands long enough.”

“This action is about achieving justice for a community that is overlooked and under-served,” Torres said. “… Routinely, low-income residents throughout the metro area are subjected to inhumane and dangerous conditions.”

Residents reportedly smelled gas three weeks before the explosion, and reported it to management, but no action was taken, Torres said.

“We’re asking for justice; we’re asking for substantial damages; we’re asking for safety reforms at Washington Gas and at Kay [Apartment Communities],” Barrett said.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon in response to the lawsuit, Kay, the management company, said it met with displaced residents of the two apartment buildings within days of the fire to offer assistance.

The company said it provided a number of resources to leaseholders, including returning their security deposits, refunding August rent payments with an additional $1,800 check, $200 debit cards, and new furniture and housewares, including televisions, furniture and linens.

The company said it also provided relocation to other Kay-managed apartments with three months of free rent and a $2,000 credit for future rent payments.

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