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Woman seriously hurt in Franklin explosion files $25M lawsuit against landlord, management company

franklin explosion
Posted at 4:45 PM, Jun 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-13 16:45:20-04

FRANKLIN, Va. - A $25 million lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a woman who was severely burned when the propane gas leak cause an explosion at her apartment in the Berkley Court Apartments in Franklin two months ago.

The lawsuit, filed Monday morning, names the owner, Berkley Court Apartments, L.P., and management company, Severn Management of Virginia, LLC, of the 75-unit complex.

The explosion and subsequent fire happened just before 11 p.m. on April 15 and resulted in the death of a man, Michael Wiggins, who also lived in the neighboring duplex. The duplex was destroyed.

According to the lawsuit, Dionne Whitehead was at home when the explosion tore through her building and suffered massive burns after the fire. The lawsuit also says permanent injuries are expected, such as scars and disfigurement.

Her duplex neighbor, Wiggins, was critically injured and died two weeks later.

Whitehead is being represented by Norfolk-based personal injury law firm Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers and is now suing Severn for compensatory damages.

The lawsuit alleges that Berkley Court Apartments and Severn failed to properly maintain, inspect, repair or warn residents about a dangerous gas leak at the property despite some residents previously complaining of a propane gas smell.

It goes on to accuse the owner and management company of either knowing that this posed an immediate hazard to its residents, or saying they should have known about the issue and that their negligence directly led to the explosion.

Whitehead's lawyers are seeking compensation for her injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering and future health care costs, along with other claimed damages. They are also in the process of investigating the complaints to the owner and property management company about potential propane leaks or the presence of a propane smell at the apartment complex.

If you know anything about propane at Berkley Court Apartments, you're asked to please call Griffin O’Hanlon at (757) 333-3333.

Related: Franklin home demolished after propane explosion; progress made to restore hot water