Piedmont seeks to ban jury from seeing I-Team investigation - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Piedmont seeks to ban jury from seeing I-Team investigation

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Attorneys for Piedmont Natural Gas have filed a motion to ban a jury from seeing a Channel 4 I-Team investigation that exposed how gas lines were inspected and deemed safe before two major explosions, one that damaged businesses and the other destroyed a home and injured a woman.

The motion was filed in a lawsuit, where the family of Vicki and Tom Stratton, of Gallatin, want Piedmont to pay $150,000 because of the gas line now placed under their land.

The children of the Strattons, who are now deceased, believe the gas line devalues their property values, and are upset that Piedmont offered less than $50,000 for access to the land.

"You don't have to have an expert tell you having a high gas line running under the front of your property is going to devalue it, nobody wants that," said Joe Harsh, the Stratton's attorney.

In February, the Channel 4 I-Team exposed how regular inspections of gas lines failed to prevent two major explosions in Antioch and Bordeaux.

Harsh saw our investigation, and said what we exposed is a game changer for his lawsuit and many others.

"When I saw your piece, the investigation you had done, heard we had two explosions in our area, it absolutely caught my attention," Harsh said.

Harsh said the Channel 4 I-Team publicly exposed failings of Piedmont to potentially stop the explosions and, therefore, proved how dangerous the lines can be. It indicated that having the high pressure gas lines underground can hurt property values.

Harsh wanted a jury to hear our investigation.

Piedmont responded on April 1, filing a motion asking to exclude a jury from seeing our investigation.

The filing reads, "The WSMV report implies that Piedmont's negligence caused the explosions. It points to situations where Piedmont did regular inspections but explosions still occurred. Piedmont is to be afforded the legal presumption that it acted carefully."

The filing goes on to state that if a jury was allowed to see our stories that it would "unfairly prejudice Piedmont."

David Trusty, a spokesman for Piedmont, released a statement to the Channel 4 I-Team, reading in part, "First and foremost, proceedings such as this are never Piedmont's first choice in trying to resolve easement or right-of-way issues with property owners - in fact, they are an absolute last resort for us."

Trusty said they could not comment on the lawsuit because it is pending litigation.

What remains to be been is if the I-Team investigation could surface in a similar fight near Radnor Lake, where several property owners are fighting Piedmont over a nearly 14 mile stretch of gas lines that will be placed under some properties.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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