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Victim sues NIPSCO, homeowner in 2012 explosion

A Fort Wayne man badly injured in a home explosion more than a year ago is suing the owner of the house and Nipsco.

Caleb Hofmann, 22, filed the lawsuit in Allen Superior Court on Friday and is seeking damages from the homeowner and gas service company.

Investigators said last August that a natural gas leak likely caused the home that used to stand at 1701 Bayer Ave. to explode July 14, 2012. The blast reduced the home to rubble, launched a back door 50 feet through the air and sent the front door across the street.

A soot-covered Hofmann emerged from a part of the home that had not been completely destroyed. He was helped by three good Samaritans over a fence to safety before more flames consumed the home.

According to a website devoted to Hofmann at www.caringbridge.com, he suffered burns over 75 percent of to his body, was put into a medically induced coma for at least a month and endured a lengthy rehab.

A Facebook message sent to Hofmann went unanswered Tuesday, but a journal entry on the Caring Bridge website dated July.18 said he was ready to attend Indiana University in Bloomington this fall.

One of Hofmann's lawyers, Steve Shine, declined to comment to The Journal Gazette. So too, did Katharine Fellman, the owner of the home.

In an email to The Journal Gazette, a Nipsco spokesman wrote: "We are aware of the incident, but we have not yet received the legal notice. Once we do, we'll review the allegations and respond accordingly."

In Hofmann's lawsuit, his legal team argues that both Fellman and Nipsco were negligent.

Fellman was "negligent in the inspection and maintenance of the gas system and gas appliances within the home at 1701 Bayer Ave., and failed to properly warn or instruct persons at that address as to the detection of a gas leak and of the danger resulting from a potential gas leak," the lawsuit said.

Likewise, the lawsuit said Nipsco was negligent in supplying gas to the home, in inspecting and maintaining the pipes, meters, regulators and other parts of the gas system and likewise failed to warn or instruct residents about the detection of a gas leak.

The gas service company also failed to properly warn about the danger resulting from such a gas leak, according to the lawsuit.

The explosion not only burned Hofmann over a large part of his body, but subjected him to horrible pain and suffering, substantial hospital and medical bills and left him permanently scarred and injured, the lawsuit said.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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