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Juror provides inside look into Xcel lawsuit verdict

Civil jury awarded more than $32 million and assigned blame for 2018 Heather Gardens explosion
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Posted at 7:32 PM, Mar 24, 2023

A juror who was part of the decision to award the family of a woman killed in an explosion at an Aurora retirement community in 2018 more than $30 million says he feels the victim should still be alive.

Carol Ross was 82 when she was killed in agas explosion on Nov. 16, 2018, at the Heather Gardens Retirement Community.

“I personally believe Carol should not have died that day,” said Dean Adams, one of the six jurors in the case. “The fact that she was told to go back in the house and stay there during that type of underground gas leak emergency was very hard for me to understand.”

Last month, a jury returned a $32 million verdict and placed blame on several parties, including Xcel Energy and the Aurora Fire Department. Xcel was the only defendant in the civil lawsuit and will have to pay roughly $3 million based on its percentage of the blame.

“I’ll never understand it,” Adams said. “Not one person ever thought to start an evacuation.”

It took the jury two days to reach a verdict, which Adams called a stressful experience.

The jury’s verdict spread blame over seven different agencies, with the highest percentage going toward Bohrenworks, a subcontractor that dug the hole and punctured the gas pipe that led to the explosion. That company was given 26% percent of the blame, according to the jury. The second most blame was put on the Aurora Fire Department with 18%. Xcel ranked fifth with 12% of the blame assigned to the company.

“My verdict said, 'Yes, we did find neglect. We found neglect during the period from when the contracts were signed until the day of the explosion,'” Adams said.

Adams said they were told they were going to be asked to award hundreds of millions of dollars — possibly a billion dollars — but said the verdict did not do that. It also did not award any punitive damages.

“I understand that there were those who wanted to punish Xcel,” Adams said. “I understand that’s what they wanted. I was unable to reach the level beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Adams said he does not have any remorse over the decision but will wonder if he and his fellow jurors did the right thing.

But he also believes there were critical errors made by first responders prior to the explosion.

“It’s beyond my comprehension. It truly is,” Adams said.