BP employee claims heat stroke symptoms ignored, sues refinery and supervisor

Shirley Willcock, Galveston Bureau Mar. 5, 2008, 8:32am

GALVESTON -- A worker at BP's Texas City refinery claims his supervisor ignored signs that he was suffering from heat exhaustion, which eventually led to a stroke that has left him paralyzed.

Bill Johnson and his wife Melanie Johnson filed suit against BP Products North America and his supervisor Robert Cooksley on Feb. 26 in Galveston County District Court.

According to the plaintiffs' original petition, Bill Johnson was injured on Aug. 8, 2007, at the BP facility. After installing a ceiling fan in an aluminum building that he said reached an afternoon heat index of more than 100 degrees, Johnson said he told his supervisor Robert Cooksley that he was hot.

Johnson alleges that he was suffering from heat exhaustion and that Cooksley failed to recognize the signs and symptoms as he should have been trained to do. Johnson says that BP's Prevention of Heat Illness Safety Regulation requires EMS to be summoned for an employee with heat exhaustion, yet Cooksey failed to contact emergency personnel.

Further, Johnson said that Cooksley left him unattended although he was suffering a medical emergency. The plaintiff claims his medical condition then progressed from heat exhaustion to heat stroke and that the worsening of his condition was due to Cooksey's lack of training and failure to take action.

Johnson's suit states that as he was suffering from the heat emergency, he tried to leave to find cooler conditions. When attempting to drive Cooksey's company truck and use the vehicle's air conditioning, Johnson said he lost consciousness, and the truck was involved in a slow-speed crash.

The plaintiff alleges that then EMS workers were led to believe he suffered a heart attack, not a heat stroke.

The suit states that another worker suffered a heat illness at the BP Refinery earlier the same day, but BP failed to provide a specific warning to its supervisors and managers.

Johnson claims that because of the heat emergency, he suffered kidney failure and tissue damage plus a blood clot that caused a stroke. The suit states that the stroke left him permanently paralyzed on the right side of his body and unable to speak.

Causes of action in the lawsuit include negligence and respondeat superior. At all times Cooksley was an agent, servant, and employee of Defendant BP and pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior, Defendant Cooksley's negligence is thus imputed to Defendant BP.

Johnson's wife Melanie is claiming losses through the injury to her husband, and she is also seeking damages for ongoing medical treatment and counseling. Plaintiff Bill Johnson is seeking exemplary damages as Defendant Cooksley did not do his duty to protect his employee.

The Plaintiffs allege that limitation of amount of damages is unconstitutional.

Joseph M. Gourrier of Houston's O'Quinn, Laminack & Pirtle is representing the plaintiff.

The case has been assigned to Judge David E. Garner, 10th District Court.

Case No. 08CV0188

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