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$2.5-million lawsuit launched in wake of Old East Village explosion

An aerial view of the gas explosion aftermath that damaged multiple homes in London, Ont. London Police

Five Londoners whose three homes were damaged as a result of the 2019 Old East Village explosion have launched a lawsuit seeking a collective $2.5 million.

In a statement of claim obtained by Global News, the Londoners allege the crash itself and “the resulting injuries and losses suffered by the Plaintiffs arose solely as a result of the negligence of the Defendants.”

The allegations have not been tested in court.

Read more: London, Ont. explosion — Fire department members recount night 1 year later

The Aug. 14, 2019 crash sparked a massive explosion that completely levelled 450 Woodman Ave., severely damaged nearby homes and resulted in the evacuation of an entire neighbourhood.

Two firefighters and two police officers were injured in the incident.

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Daniella Leis pleaded guilty in October 2020 to four counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm in connection with the criminal investigation. Sentencing for Leis has been set for next Thursday, Jan. 21.

Read more: Londoners who lost homes react to guilty plea in Old East Village explosion

The civil suit is seeking $500,000 for each plaintiff, plus additional costs. The list of plaintiffs does not include 450 Woodman Ave.’s Karen Fisher.

The statement of claim lists the defendants as Daniella Leis; her father Shawn Leis; Budweiser Gardens; the City of London; Spectra, which provides venue management for Budweiser Gardens; Ovations Ontario Food Services Inc.; an unidentified security company; and two unidentified Budweiser Gardens employees.

They say Spectra, Ovations and its “agents, servants and employees,” including one of the unidentified employees, were involved in serving Leis alcoholic beverages.

The statement of claim says she was visibly intoxicated when she was ejected from the premises of Budweiser Gardens. It says Spectra, Ovations, the security company, and the other unidentified employee, who worked in security, “took no further or other steps, such as seizing her car keys, calling a taxi or finding someone to accompany her, to ensure she did not drive.”

Click to play video 'Video shows aftermath of massive explosion that jolted a London, Ont. neighbourhood and forced the evacuation of 100 homes' Video shows aftermath of massive explosion that jolted a London, Ont. neighbourhood and forced the evacuation of 100 homes
Video shows aftermath of massive explosion that jolted a London, Ont. neighbourhood and forced the evacuation of 100 homes – Aug 15, 2019

Leis was negligent in that she drove at an excessive speed heading the wrong way down a one-way street while intoxicated, the statement says, in a vehicle with defective brakes, windshield, headlights and/or steering equipment.

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Her father, the statement claims, “failed to have the Defendant motor vehicle in a proper state of mechanical repair suitable for its safe use and operation on a highway” and “permitted an incompetent driver or driver whose faculties of observation, perception, judgment, and self-control were impaired, to operate his motor vehicle.”

As a result of the explosion, the statement says four of the plaintiffs in two homes “lost everything” after their homes were condemned.

The fifth plaintiff was unable to return to their home “for some time” due to “catastrophic damage from the force of the explosion” and ended up sleeping in their pickup truck.

The plaintiffs claim that as a result, they’ve suffered “permanent and serious impairments of important physical, mental or psychological functions, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and depression.”

They say they’ve suffered “impaired concentration, panic attacks, difficulty sleeping and insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, irritability, anger, fatigue, emotional shock, dissociation, and diminished energy.”

Read more: Former London, Ont., councillor Virginia Ridley launches lawsuit over websites scandal

The statement of claim adds that the plaintiffs’ ability to continue their regular or usual employment has been impacted.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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As of Thursday afternoon, none of the defendants had yet responded with a statement of defence.

A spokesperson with the city and a spokesperson with Budweiser Gardens/Spectra both declined comment to Global News, noting that the matter is before the courts.

Click to play video 'Woman who lost home in London, Ont. explosion reacts to guilty plea' Woman who lost home in London, Ont. explosion reacts to guilty plea
Woman who lost home in London, Ont. explosion reacts to guilty plea – Oct 22, 2020
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