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Enron Bankruptcy Freezes Claims Of Humberto Vidal Case
BY HECTOR BERRIOS FIGUEROA
January 24, 2002
Five years after the explosion that killed 33 people and injured 80 others at the Humberto Vidal building in Rio Piedras, more than 700 plaintiffs still have pending claims that could reach $50 million in payments from Enron Corp.
A Federal Emergency Management Agency investigation found that Enron subsidiary the San Juan Gas Co. had failed to prevent the tragedy because of inadequate employee training and unsafe conditions in the propane gas pipeline system.
Nevertheless, the recent bankruptcy filed by Enron has frozen settlement negotiations.
Shoe retailer Humberto Vidal Inc. is claiming $25 million in compensatory damages for the explosion. The business, which was the target of lawsuits itself over the incident, paid $900,000 toward settlements while losing five employees, and one store, as well as the companys headquarters in the explosion.
"It is my hope that the Bankruptcy Court agrees that we go on with the claim process, which has been delayed for five years," said Humberto Vidal Jr., vice president of Humberto Vidal Inc.
It has been reported that Enron has already been covered by indemnity insurance for $60 million. However, of the more than 1,400 plaintiffs that filed lawsuits against Enron, more than 700 still have pending claims that could reach an additional $50 million in payments.
"After filing bankruptcy, all legal claims against Enron were automatically paralyzed until the Bankruptcy Court decides otherwise. This process could easily take many months, one year, or even more," said Jose Torres Escalera, partner at Jimenez Graffam & Lausell, the legal firm that represents Humberto Vidal.
"We are readying for the next hearing on the matter which has been set for March 7. Even if Enron closes operations indefinitely, we will continue with our case against Enrons insurers," said Torres Escalera.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.