Who’s to blame?

Preliminary court hearings could begin soon on the civil lawsuit filed by Randy Barclay in Butte County Superior Court in connection with the Feb. 13 tank explosion in an industrial neighborhood on the Midway, in south Chico.

The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages for Barclay’s disabling injuries resulting from the tank fire that almost burned him to death. The lawsuit, filed June 19, charges that defendants showed a “conscious and deliberate disregard of the rights, safety and interests of others by removing of hazardous materials in blatant violation of accepted safe practices. …”

Stan Jones, an investigator for San Francisco attorney Steger Johnson, who filed the lawsuit, says that, had there been full compliance with safety regulations, “the job would have taken longer, but there would not have been an explosion.”

The suit names as a defendant the project contractor, the Washington-state Northern Lights Mechanical, Inc. Also named as defendants are Jesse Lange Distributor, the Shell Oil products outlet where the explosion occurred; Shell Oil Company; and Paul Oil Company, a Patterson, Calif., business that planned to purchase the petroleum-product storage tanks that were being emptied and dismantled.

A Northern Lights Mechanical attorney said he had been retained only recently and it was “premature to make any comment on liability.” The attorney, Issa Michael, of San Francisco, said his firm is investigating the incident.

Sacramento attorney Richard Jacobson represents Shell Oil in the lawsuit and predicts that Shell will be dismissed as a defendant. Although Jesse Lange distributed Shell products, the site wasn’t a Shell station, Jacobson says, adding that Shell had no control over the project.

Attorneys for Jesse Lange and Paul Oil couldn’t be reached for comment.