Massachusetts Strip Club Explodes and Takes Out Church Next Door In Gas Explosion

In class, we often discuss the limitations on liability from fire under the common laws. This weekend showed how extensive, and foreseeable, such damage can be with a gas explosion. On Friday night, a strip club exploded in Springfield, Massachusetts — burning ten buildings including The House of Mercy church next door.

In cases like Ryan v. New York Central R.R. Co., courts have limited liability to the most direct consequences of negligence rather than remote consequences dependent upon wind and weather. That often means that buildings destroyed away from the epicenter of a fire may fall outside of the reach of proximate causation. Judge Richard Posner noted in Edwards v. Honeywell, 50 F.3d 484 (7th Cir. 1995), that there remain a “nonduty of care of railroads in avoiding fire damage to anyone other than the owner of buildings or other property actually struck by the railroad’s sparks, as opposed to owners of property to which the fire that had been started by those sparks spread.”

However, in this case, a gas explosion has a wider area of direct causation — though it is not clear whether, if there were negligence, the negligence was that of the strip club or the gas company.

Moving from the mundane to the divine, we have often discussed the curious sense of divine deliverance that often follows natural or man-made disasters. Pastor Mitchell Plaud declared that God had spared him because the explosion occurred shortly before he arrived for services.

Now I can understand the view that God would smite down Scores Gentlemen’s Club, though a divine clerical error blocking a permit might have been less messy. Yet, Plaud saw something more personal and reverential in the moment: “God saved me because my service starts at 6:30 p.m. and I usually come early to church, and the explosion happened at 5:25 p.m.”

There were, however, nearly two dozen injuries, including 11 firefighters. It appears that they were not quite as good with God or their timing was simply off.

I understand the sense of relief at such moments, but I always find it odd that one would believe that God spared you in a disaster but not others. It seems a bit arbitrary even egotistical to stand amid rubble that destroyed the homes or lives of neighbors and claim individual deliverance. It would suggest that one’s neighbors were on less of than a good footing with the Almighty, wouldn’t it?

By the way, couldn’t the strippers and their customers claim the same deliverance (though a brave gas worker would appear the most direct answer).

Both the church and the strip club (as well as other buildings) were destroyed or rendered unusable.

Source: CBS

17 thoughts on “Massachusetts Strip Club Explodes and Takes Out Church Next Door In Gas Explosion”

  1. I’ve said this before but I lamented that God created neutron stars and magnetars because he became so frustrated with humanity had to get away for a while and do something different.

    While it is certain my theory is wrong from a scientific point of view, I believe it is correct in that humanity would drive any frustrated supreme being to do such things.

  2. What would Pat Robertson say about this? Who would he blame? How would he bend the story to blame liberal, gays, atheists, Obama or high taxes on Corporations and rich people.

    But seriously, this sound like a very bad explosion. The position of the pastor seems rather insensitive at best. As to liability there aren’t enough facts to even take a wild bar exam guess.

  3. “It appears that they were not quite as good with God or their timing was simply off.”

    The Lord works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

  4. “The structure of our entire justice system is burning down. And we have no insurance.” -Malisha

    Yep. (Thanks for the DeShaney/Posner/Rehnquist information.)

  5. “Pastor Mitchell Plaud declared that God had spared him because the explosion occurred shortly before he arrived for services.”


    Ah, the arrogance of the fundie Christian believer claiming pious humility before an angry God all the while.

    And they say that Buddhists are inscrutable.

  6. And …. The beat goes on….. Both raise money…… Not in to much of different ways…..

  7. Dredd – interesting story about NV, thanks for sharing.

    But think about the neighborhood that holds a strip club next to a church called “House Of Mercy” . . . I’m getting a picture of a neighborhood the zoning commission does not give much thought to . . . a neighborhood for ‘those people’

  8. Up in the heart of darkness (Michelle Bachmann’s CD in MN) there was a drought a few years back. This caused a lot of people in the area to hold prayer services pleading with the great sky slot machine to provide them with rain. As often happens in drought situations there were sporadic, scattered, showers. Because these hit some farms and not others people in the area believed that was the ultimate proof that their slot machine was the one true machine and had come up 3 cherries because they had prayed to it.

    Things got pretty tense for a bit, there were death threats and sabotage. Things settled down the next season when rain returned but it was stunning to see how people could attribute any number of reasons to random events.

  9. God saved him alright, but the others were not to be saved, under the Pastor’s thinking. It reminds me of the football players thanking God for making them such good players and smithing their opponents!

  10. Posner. Right. He knows about liability all right.

    He’s the one who said, in the DeShaney case, that you couldn’t hold a public agency accountable for doing its job because if you did, people might sue it for DOING its job just because they didn’t like the way it did it. Duh… I mean, Huh?

    Posner. Right. He knows about liability.

    In DeShaney, a social service agency responsible to protect children from abuse, responded more than ten times to calls about a little boy being beaten horribly by his custodial father. First wife (mother of the child) was gone long ago thanks to a custody judge. Second wife had escaped the violent father but had stopped on her way out of town and warned social services that the kid was in grave danger. Doctors at the hospital had tried to keep him in protective custody after the prior beating. But no, the agency kept putting stupid remarks in the file and the kid got beaten so badly that he is an expense on the taxpayers for the rest of his life and dad went to jail for something like four years. At the end of it all, Posner said the agency was not responsible and then Rehnquist backed him up in a decision worthy of Chief Justice Taney. In fact it was essentially the SAME decision.

    Posner. Right. He knows about liability.

    The structure of more than a strip club and a church are burning down. The structure of our entire justice system is burning down. And we have no insurance.

  11. I would point out to the preacher that God also destroyed his place of work and severely impaired his ability to collect money from his parishioners; which will probably move on to another church and make their eternal life insurance payments there.

  12. Can you imagine a zoning committee wrestling with the idea? Who gets to build next to the church building so they can be safe?

    Should builds put up next to strip clubs have super fireproofing? Should strip clubs be allowed to use natural gas?

    Or leave it to the imagination of preachers to decide who God saved and who God did not save?

    Reminds me again of the Nevada law concerning the proximity schools can have to brothels.

    Once the distance of a school away from a brothel was found wanting under the law. Harry Reid explained in his autobiography that the school was then moved to a legal location. The brothel remained.

    Zoning laws are very strange when they are not based on safety of people and property.

    The dialogue concerning coastal zones is heating up because of global warming induced climate change, stoked by insurance companies.

    Perhaps they will be the inspirational source of the reality that coastal communities are becoming endangered as the global climate produces more and more climate rage.

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