UPDATE: Sneed family settles lawsuit over fatal East Campus explosion

Monday, September 10, 2012 | 5:42 p.m. CDT; updated 7:42 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 10, 2012

COLUMBIA — The lawsuit against Ameren Missouri in the 2008 East Campus natural gas explosion that killed an elderly couple reached a private settlement this weekend — days before the trial was set to begin Tuesday.

The daughters of Carl and Merna Sneed — Patricia K. Sneed, Terry L. Sneed and Pamela R. Heath — filed the wrongful death lawsuit in 2008. 

The couple's home at 308 McNab Drive exploded and burned on March 14, 2008. The blast killed Carl Sneed, 87, and threw Merna Sneed, 85, roughly 20 feet from the house. She suffered burns on over 30 percent of her body and died three weeks later at University Hospital. 

Neil Johnson, of the Berkowitz Oliver law firm in Kansas City, who represented the Sneeds, said Monday that he could not talk about the settlement.  

He said that a hearing would be held before Boone Country Circuit Judge Jodie Asel soon to discuss the terms of the settlement, which would remain confidential. In Missouri, a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit must be approved by the court, he said.

Gerald King of Armstrong Teasdale, also based out of Kansas City, represented Ameren Missouri. He could not be reached for comment, but Ameren Missouri's communication department issued this statement Monday: "Ameren Missouri has settled with the family of Carl and Merna Sneed. The terms of the settlement are confidential. Ultimately, the parties reached a satisfactory resolution but that does not change Ameren Missouri's belief in the validity of its defense." 

That defense, according to the utility's July 2008 response to the lawsuit, seemed likely to include the assertion that the Sneeds didn't "properly react to the odor of leaking gas," didn't take reasonable precautions and didn't maintain "their natural gas appliances, equipment and piping." 

Terry Sneed, who lives in Columbia, said she would have no comment on the settlement. Patricia Sneed and Pamela Heath could not be reached for comment.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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