Northland named in $177M lawsuit over Fort Worth hotel explosion

Critically injured restaurant employee smelled gas before blast

Northland Properties Named in Fort Worth Hotel Explosion Lawsuit

Northland Properties’ Tom Gagliardi and The Sandman Signature Hotel (Getty, Northland Properties, Fort Worth Fire Department)

A Fort Worth restaurant employee is seeking $177 million in damages in the aftermath of the Jan. 8 explosion at the Sandman Signature Hotel.  

The worker, Karen Mayte Lopez Ontiveros, was critically injured in the blast. A lawsuit filed on her behalf names the hotel owner, the restaurant owners and the gas company: Sandman Hotel Group, Northland Properties, Musume restaurant, Rock Libations, SBBC Hospitium and Atmos Energy, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Northland Properties, a family-owned company whose CEO is Dallas Stars owner Tom Gagliardi, has owned the building since 2018, and it opened the hotel last April.

The lawsuit accuses the plaintiffs of negligence in the explosion in the basement of 810 Houston Street, which “caused the first floor to collapse” on Lopez Ontiveros, the lawsuit states.

Lopez Ontiveros and other employees detected a strong gas odor in the kitchen hours before the blast. Despite alerting management, no action was taken, the suit claims. 

She was among 21 people injured, and she suffered severe burns, broken ribs, kidney lacerations, punctured lungs and a shattered arm. She is intubated and in a medically induced coma. The lawsuit encompasses her medical expenses, lost wages and other damages. 

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The lawsuit singles out Atmos Energy, citing the utility’s history with gas-leak explosions. The suit points to the 2018 explosion of a home in North Dallas that killed a 12-year-old girl. Atmos settled a lawsuit in that case.

The Lopez Ontiveros lawsuit accuses Musume, Rock Libations, and SBBC Hospitium of having “exclusive control” over the decision to evacuate the restaurant, and it alleges negligence for not prioritizing the safety of employees, customers and patrons in the face of a gas leak.

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The Fort Worth Fire Department has said that Atmos found no indication of its system’s involvement in the explosion, but it “remains confident that natural gas was involved.” 

The focus of the investigation has shifted to the interior of the building, as authorities seek to unravel the cause. This suit is the latest filed by nearly a dozen hotel and restaurant employees since the explosion.

— Brandon Sams

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