A lawsuit filed Tuesday against Messer Gas LLC, the company responsible for manufacturing and servicing the nitrogen system at Foundation Food Group in Gainesville, claims wrongful death of an employee in the recent plant tragedy.
The lawsuit was filed in Gwinnett County State Court on behalf of Colleen Murphy, the widow of Corey Murphy, and seeks "all damages allowable under Georgia law arising from the wrongful death of her spouse." Corey Murphy was working as a production superintendent at Foundation Food Group on the day of the liquid nitrogren leak, which also claimed the lives of five other employees. The lawsuit states that all claims will made on behalf of the estate of Corey Murphy once it is established.
Other defendants in the lawsuit include Messer North America, Inc., which has an agency in Norcross, and an employee of the company who was responsible for servicing the system at Foundation Food Group. The lawsuit claims that Messer installed the nitrogen system in December of last year and despite numerous complaints, failed to repair it.
The lawsuit also claims that the Messer employee visited Foundation Food Group site a day or two before the incident and "was negligent on that service visit and failed to properly repair or shut the system down and allowed it to continue to operate." According to the lawsuit, the Messer employee allowed the system to run without warning employees at the plant, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in Gwinnett County because of Messer's location in Norcross and the employee's residence in Braselton.
"One thing that this lawsuit is going to allow is to let us get our own experts in there and look and get a lot of questions answered," said Ronny Hulsey, partner at Gainesville-based law firm Smith Hulsey and one of the attorney's representing the widow. "The question that's going to have to be answered is how can the largest, privately-held gas company that specializes and markets this equipment, how can you have all of these problems and not fix it and let it lead to the type of tragedy that has occurred?"
Other attorneys for the widow include Matthew Cook with Cook Law Group, LLC in Gainesville and Alan Holcomb with Turnbull Holcomb, LLC in Atlanta.
In response to a request for a comment, Amy Ficon, a spokeswoman for Messer North America, Inc. said in an email statement, "We are aware of the wrongful death lawsuit that has been filed against Messer. We are reviewing the lawsuit and have no comment at this time."
Ficon also expressed sympathy for the families of the victims and said that Messer Gas is cooperating with investigations.
"Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased, and we express our sincere condolences," said Ficon. "Messer has offered its support to the Foundation Food Group team, is cooperating fully with the investigating authorities examining this tragedy and is conducting its own investigation. The investigations are ongoing."
Corey and Colleen Murphy married in September of 2014 and together had two daughters. They were living in Clermont at the time of his death. He served in the U.S. Army and National Guard, with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.