A secret settlement has been reached in the lawsuit over a 2012 propane explosion that killed a young Wilson girl.
The agreement means that there will be no public airing of the main question in the case: Was Noco Energy Corp. to blame for the blast by failing to respond adequately to a reported gas odor, or did plaintiff Jody Johnson in effect blow up his own house by incorrectly installing a replacement propane tank?
Both attorneys – Terrance P. Flynn for Noco and Matthew J. Beck for the Johnson family – refused to answer that question Thursday.
No court paperwork has been filed embodying the settlement, an aide to State Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III said Thursday.
The Johnson home was obliterated by a gas explosion at about 6 a.m. July 24, 2012. Sarah Johnson, 14, was killed, and her sister Katie was badly burned.
The house at 4972 Chestnut Road, Wilson, was equipped with a 500-gallon liquid propane tank for heating.
During the day on July 23, a gas smell was noticed inside the house. Jody Johnson was called at work during the afternoon by another daughter, Hannah. The father told her to turn off the valve on the tank.
Later in the day, Johnson’s wife, Judith, called Noco to report the odor. According to the family’s original lawsuit, the Noco employee who took the call said the Johnsons weren’t smelling gas but just the odorant added to it.
The company did not dispatch a repairman. The family opened windows in their home to vent the smell.
According to Noco’s countersuit, Jody Johnson then went to Jay’s Place II, a store on Walmore Road on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in Lewiston, and obtained a 100-pound propane tank.
Johnson allegedly disconnected the Noco tank from his heating system and connected the smaller tank.
The next morning, something ignited fumes in the basement, which investigators said was full of gas.
Noco filed a third-party suit against Jay’s Place in January 2013 but dropped it in December.