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Family Files Lawsuit Over Porter Ranch Gas Leak

The first personal lawsuit was filed by a Porter Ranch family against Southern California Gas Co. and Sempra Energy for failing to meet the family's medical and relocation needs after hundreds of residents say a natural gas leak has sickened them.

Christine and Brian Katz filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday, claiming the entire family is experiencing severe health issues as a result of the leak. The family is seeking compensation for their financial losses as a result of SoCalGas' negligence.

Seven weeks ago-- just about the same time the porter ranch gas leak began-- the Katz's say their 2-year-old daughter Ava was rushed to the emergency room and spent four days hospitalized for a breathing problem.

"She's never had a problem breathing she's never had asthma," her mother said.

Christine Katz and her husband say Ava's health problems are the most severe out of their five children since the gas leak was discovered. The Katz family's Porter Ranch home is about a mile from the gas leak.

"When doors open up in my household, bad chemicals come in house," Brian Katz said. "I think it's poisoning our family," his wife added.

The leak was discovered Oct. 23 by crews at the Aliso Canyon Storage Field facility near Northridge. Utility officials initially said the issue would be resolved in a few days or weeks, but later said the leak could actually take months to fix.

County health officials say they have received reports of residents experiencing nosebleeds, dizziness, nausea and headaches linked to the leak and have ordered Southern California Gas Co. to offer free, temporary relocation to area residents.

Lawyers representing hundreds of homeowners impacted by the Porter Ranch gas leak called on Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

Consumer attorney Brian Kabatech says SoCal Gas should be setting up mobile homes and working with people on an individual basis to relocate them.

But because the circumstances are different for each family, some homeowners say moving isn't an option.

"There's a lot of logistics involved. I know several families have moved to hotels and those are all taken," said Jennifer Green, a Porter Ranch homeowner. "People are starting to move into houses. The inventory is getting low."

Green is concerned for her 3-year-old toddler who has recently been diagnosed with a neurological brain disorder, and her 5-year-old who attends a school nearby.

Los Angeles City Atty Mike Feuer has also filed a lawsuit against SoCal Gas over its handling of the incident.

SoCal gas has continues to maintain natural gas is not toxic saying leaking levels are too low for any long term health concerns.

In a written statement, SoCal Gas said: "While we cannot comment on pending litigation, we are continuing to do everything we can to support families who have been affected and address their concerns including relocating families should they wish."

No evacuation order for the area has been issued but 700 families have voluntarily left the area and another 1,000 are applying for relocation services, officials said. The Gas Company also opened a community resource center for Porter Ranch residents with questions or concerns. A dedicated website has also been established.

In addition to offering extended stay accommodations for families seeking to temporarily relocate from Porter Ranch, the Gas Company is also offering reimbursements for customers who make their own accommodation arrangements, according to the utility.

Published at 7:57 AM PST on Dec 14, 2015

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