Exploding oil barrel leads to suit against seller, manufacturers

David Yates Feb. 20, 2008, 12:14pm

An exploding oil barrel has led Ronald Means to sue the company who sold him the barrel and the companies who manufactured it.

Means filed his suit against New Distributing Co., Chevron USA and Texaco in the Jefferson County District Court on Feb. 15.

According to the plaintiff's petition, on Dec. 29, 2006, Means contacted New Distributing to purchase "burn barrels." New Distributing informed him that they sold barrels that would be suitable but that the "tops would need to be cut off."

"Plaintiff purchased the empty oil barrels that were put into the stream of commerce by Texaco," the suit said. "When Plaintiff attempted to cut the tops off of the barrels, a flammable (gaseous) material inside of the barrel ignited and exploded. As a result of the explosion, Plaintiff suffered severe and debilitating injuries.

"It was not until after plaintiff suffered severe and debilitating injuries that Plaintiff was advised by New Distributing Co. that Defendant had used gasoline to clean the barrel or otherwise flush out the previous contents. New Distributing Co. never informed Plaintiff of the fact that gasoline had been introduced into the barrel until after the incident."

Means contends New Distributing was negligent for introducing gasoline into a barrel that it had reason to believe was to be used to burn debris and garbage and would immediately be subjected to having the top removed by electric saw, torch or other means.

In addition, Means alleges Texaco and Chevron had knowledge that the empty barrels were being sold to consumers and were negligent for failing place a warning label on the barrel.

"Texaco and Chevron's failure to provide proper warnings and instructions rendered the barrel unreasonably dangerous and defective," the suit said. "As a direct and proximate result of Texaco and Chevron's negligence, Plaintiff was harmed."

Means is suing for past and future pain, lost wages, mental anguish, medical expenses, disfigurement and loss of household services.

He is represented by Provost Umphrey attorney Guy Fisher.

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd Judicial District.

Case No. E181-252

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