Protective Order Sought After New York Gas Explosion

A woman whose fiancé and two children were severely injured in a gas explosion in Kiamesha Lake, New York on September 30, 2023, has filed a petition to order her landlord, the propane supplier, and the local fire department to preserve evidence and reports related to the incident. Autumn Donnelly filed the verified petition naming Blue Flame Propane, LLC, Sumona Easmin Jona, and the Monticello Fire Department.

The petition, which is not unprecedented but relatively rarely used, is a tool to ensure parties preserve any evidence in their possession that is relevant to a possible legal proceeding. In some states such a petition is called a request for a protective order. It should be distinguished from a tort-liability suit in that the petitioner is not formally accusing anyone of responsibility, nor seeking damages. It simply seeks to preserve the status quo while the matter is investigated.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • On September 30, 2023, at approximately 12:30 p.m., the home I rented at the above address exploded due to a propane/ gas malfunction. As a result, my children and fiancé, ROBERT MCDOWELL sustained serious and severe personal injuries.
  • The home at the above address was serviced some days prior to the day of the explosion by Blue Flame Propane, LLC.
  • ROBERT MCDOWELL and infants J.M. and S.M. were rushed to Westchester Medical Center where they were all admitted to the emergency room burn unit with serious orthopedic and burn injuries.
  • They have all had to undergo multiple surgeries, including, but not limited to Open Reduction Internal Fixation, skin grafts and wound closures.
  • I intend to prosecute a civil action against those responsible for the personal injuries we sustained.
  • My attorneys have informed me that the Defendants may include Respondents, Blue Flame Propane, LLC., and SUMONA EASMIN JONA, who are responsible for maintaining and keeping safe the home, including the soil and all underground gas/propane tanks, pipes or other parts.
  • I have been informed that it is critical for my attorneys and their representatives to obtain immediate access to the subject explosion area, including the soil and all underground
  • gas/propane tanks, pipes or other parts in their post-accident state and condition (while snuring the public is protected) in order that a meaningful inspection of them can be made.
  • My attorneys have also informed me that it is critical to obtain access to any surveillance video that exists pertaining to the incident.
  • I respectfully respect this order pursuant to CPLR §3102(c).

Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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