West Reading chocolate factory explosion: Truck driver sues R.M. Palmer Co. and UGI over injuries suffered in blast

A lawsuit was filed on Thursday in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, stating that Mark Baxter, a 59-year-old resident of New Holland, Lancaster County, was present in the unloading zone of the R.M. Palmer Chocolate factory on March 24 when the facility suddenly burst before 5 p.M.

The blast completely destroyed one of the company’s structures located on South Second Avenue, leading to the fatalities of seven staff members who were on-site at that moment and inflicting injuries on others.

The lawsuit claims that Baxter, an employee who was not Palmer but a truck driver who made deliveries of melted chocolate between different factories and production plants, was partially covered by debris and bricks from the building.

According to the lawsuit, Baxter was rescued by various individuals, such as emergency workers and onlookers, but he still endures significant injuries.

Baxter was hospitalized for four days following the blast, suffering from injuries such as eye loss, hearing loss, bruises, cuts, and burns ranging from second-degree to third-degree along his body.

The suit is seeking damages and a trial jury, but it does not provide a specific list of names. The defendants include LLC, Purchasers, Confectionery and Estate Real Confectionery, as well as its successors and affiliates, such as Chocolate Palmer R.M. And Utilities UGI.

As per the legal case:

Baxter, unable to move while feeling his body burning, cried for help, believing he would die. The normal workday turned into a nightmare, leaving him with severe burns and other psychological and physical injuries.

Palmer chose not to evacuate or take any measures, despite receiving multiple notifications from employees, contractors, and visitors that they detected the scent of gas.

“Instead, R.M. Palmer put profit over the life and safety of those in its workplace and continued its production,” the suit says.

The recklessness and neglect of UGI, who provided natural gas to the premises, also resulted in the explosion.

The National Transportation Safety Board has taken over the investigation into the incident. Investigators have not officially determined the cause of the explosion, they have stated.

The company stated that the legal action was initiated on behalf of Baxter by the Philadelphia-based law firm Galfand Berger LLP, and it represents the initial lawsuit filed by an individual who survived the workplace incident and sustained injuries due to the explosion.

Another civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of Moran Lopez-Judith, a 55-year-old woman from Reading who lost her life in the explosion, against UGI and Palmer listing as defendants.

The company did nothing, however, according to workers in the wrongful death lawsuit, they did inform supervisors and detected the presence of gas within the building on that particular day.

A neighbor of the blast site also filed a suit late last month claiming negligence by Palmer and seeking $50,000 in damages.

Officials from Palmer, in a statement issued on Thursday, expressed their inability to offer any remarks concerning the ongoing investigation or any legal proceedings associated with the explosion.

“The statement states that any allegations, including litigation related to the incident, may be made. These allegations may be related to the ongoing investigation. We are unable to comment on anything due to applicable federal regulations. We have been asked to assist in this federal investigation because of it.”

The statement also mentions that Palmer is committed to its staff and expresses sadness for the fatalities caused by the blast.