Iowa Lawsuit Claims Station Knowingly Sold Gas to Arsonist
An insurance company representing the owner of an apartment building that was set on fire in Des Moines last year is suing an area gas station, claiming workers knowingly sold gasoline to the alleged arsonist prior to his act.
According to the Iowa Capital Dispatch:
State Auto Property and Casualty Insurance Co., the insurance company for the Southern Knolls apartment complex in Des Moines, is suing QuikTrip Corp. of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in federal court, alleging gross negligence.
Court records indicated that Giovannte Curtis entered a QuikTrip on April 7, 2021, in Des Moines. Curtis reportedly purchased multiple soda fountain cups. He then proceeded to fill the cups with gasoline before employees shut off the pump, informing Giovannte he was not using "appropriate" containers to fill with gasoline.
According to the lawsuit, Curtis left the store, returning about 10 minutes later with what was an appropriate container, a gas can, and began harassing an assistant manager.
Curtis said, "you going to get to know me really well,” and said he was “going to handle a situation” that was “going to be broadcast.” At that point, Curtireportedly walked right across the street with his partially filled gas can, to the Southern Knolls apartment building, where he poured the gasoline on the floors and walls and ignited it with a lighter.
The fire quickly spread and caused significant damage to the building. The question now is whether QuickTrip has any liability. Could they or should they have denied the sale after knowing the arsonist's intentions?
Given the facts at hand, U.S. District Court Senior Judge James E. Gritzner ruled that the situation created a "plausible inference that QuikTrip employees knew, or had reason to know, Curtis planned to cause harm at the time they sold him gasoline."
Gritzner claimed the first attempt to purchase gas using soda fountains was enough to imply Curtis' intention was not to fill a conventional gas tank, thus the second attempt should have also been denied. He also ruled that Curtis demonstrated a "blatant disregard for the inherent dangers of gasoline."
A trial in the case is scheduled for Aug. 21, 2023.