Family of Gig Harbor man killed in fire sues propane company

The children of a retired Gig Harbor doctor who died in a house fire have sued a Minnesota-based propane delivery company, contending it was responsible for the blaze.

John E. Kemp’s three daughters and one son filed the wrongful-death lawsuit last week in Pierce County Superior Court. They seek undisclosed damages from CHS Inc. and the company driver who delivered a load of propane to Kemp’s home the day he died.

“Defendant failed to act with due care and left the home in a dangerous condition directly causing the explosion and ensuing fire that killed Dr. Kemp and destroyed his home,” according to the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Kemp’s children by the Connelly Law Offices of Tacoma.

A spokesman for CHS said this week the company will not comment on the suit.

“We are not able to publicly discuss pending or ongoing litigation,” said Steve Roalstad of CHS.

Kemp, 75, died July 29, 2013, in a catastrophic fire that destroyed his 4,000-square-foot home on 92nd Street Northwest.

The Pierce County fire marshal said at the time the blaze was caused by a mechanical failure of the home’s propane system, which supplied fuel for heating, cooking and other purposes.

Kemp’s children contend in their lawsuit that the CHS driver was responsible for the mechanical failure.

Kemp had called the company that day to say he was out of propane and “detected an odor inside his home that he believed to be liquid propane near the cook top,” the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, CHS and its driver were negligent for “failing to perform necessary and required tasks to prevent a serious injury and death” and “failing to adhere to safety standards,” among other things.