• Jury: Time Warner Cable mostly to blame for JJ's restaurant explosion


    KMBC News

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The jury in the civil trial about the 2013 explosion at JJ’s restaurant on the Country Club Plaza has found Time Warner Cable 98 percent responsible for the blast.
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    The cable company was ordered to pay $5.78 million.

    Time Warner Cable, which had hired contractors to dig in the area near the restaurant, acknowledged before the trial that the workers hit a gas line. It said Missouri Gas Energy didn’t respond to the problem quickly enough.

    Investigators said the explosion and fire were caused by a gas leak.

    JJ's restaurant was determined to be 2 percent responsible in the case. USIC, the company that marked the underground gas lines, was not found to be liable, something that surprised JJ's attorney Steve Emerson.

    "Our theory of the case was that there were three utiilty lines that should have been marked and they only marked two, but the jury heard the evidence and disagreed with that," said Emerson. "So be it. We respect their verdict."

    The restaurant’s owners had asked for more than $9 million in damages to recover rebuilding costs and loss of revenue, valuing its wine collection alone at $1 million.

    This trial only dealt with damage to the property and the business from the explosion and not any individual's pain and suffering.

    Server Megan Cramer was killed in the blast, which also injured more than a dozen other people.

    Owner J.J. Frantze, who was not in court because he is recovering from a recent liver transplant, told KMBC 9 News that he is glad the case is done and Time Warner Cable was found to be responsible.

    Emerson echoed similar feelings.

    "We hope that this will send a message to utilities that if you are going to install utilities underground, around electric lines and gas lines, that you are just going to have to be more careful," Emerson said. "Because if you don't, there are going be more accidents and more people are going to get hurt."

    Frantze said that while his original restaurant was priceless, any money that comes through the case would help offset some of the millions spent to build the new restaurant across the street. Frantze said he expects there to be a lengthy appeal.

    In a statement, Time Warner Cable said, "We know no court decision can undo this tragedy. We'll take some time to review the court's decision before deciding our next step in this case."

    “We appreciate the jurors’ commitment for having sat through the many long days of testimony that clearly vindicates USIC," a company representative said. "Protecting the public’s safety and our customers’ underground facilities have been and will always be our top priorities. We also want to thank our employees for their continued dedication, hard work and focus during this challenging period.”