Watch the Ohio Department of Transportation’s traffic camera video of the explosion at Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation in April 2021
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WMCH) — A Columbus woman has accused a paint factory of severely damaging her home when a deadly explosion emanated from the plant in 2021.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Franklin County, Shirley Elkins claimed Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation’s reckless handling of hazardous materials and failure to abide by safety regulations ignited an explosion on April 8, 2021, that caused extensive damage to her house in the 2100 block of Leonard Avenue — 2 1/2 blocks southwest of the paint factory.
The blast, whose force was felt by residents miles away, killed 44-year-old Wendell Light, a Yenkin-Majestic employee, and injured eight others. More than six months after the explosion, state and federal agencies determined a computer or equipment malfunction led to the explosion.
In her complaint, Elkins said she noticed changes to the west side of her house facing the Yenkin-Majestic plant shortly after the explosion. Damage included external and internal cracking in the foundation, walls and ceilings of her home and detached garage.
“Our client’s home is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Elkins’ attorney Bradley Jeckering said. “The value to repair it and to make it whole would probably exceed that.”
The complaint alleges that on Oct. 28, 2021, a structural engineer visited Elkins home to assess the damage, concluding that the property’s unusual cracking patterns like resulted from the force of the paint factory’s explosion.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a $709,960 fine against Yenkin-Majestic for the explosion and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, according to an October 2021 news release from the agency. In November, the Columbus Division of Fire announced there was no evidence of a criminal or intentional act in connection with the explosion.
The company’s CEO Andrew Smith apologized for the fear the explosion caused at a meeting with community members in August 2021, in a statement adding “we will fix anything we have damaged that can be fixed.”
Elkins, however, claimed in the complaint that neither she nor her neighbors have received any compensation for the alleged damage caused by the factory’s explosion.
“If this was a white, wealthy neighborhood that had this type of explosion, compensation would’ve been paid on Day 1,” Jeckering said. “But because we have a predominately minority neighborhood with working class folks, Yenkin has not done the right thing.”
Elkins filed 13 claims for relief against the company, including negligence, liability and trespassing. The lawsuit seeks compensation in excess of $25,000 for alleged property damage and other expenses.
Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation did not respond to a request for comment.