Suit filed in Jefferson County by workers in Houston crane collapse

David Yates Jul. 24, 2008, 5:41am

Just days after a deadly crane collapse at a Houston refinery, four construction workers have filed personal injury claims against several defendants.

On July 18, a 30-story-tall construction crane, capable of lifting 1 million pounds, fell over at the LyondellBasell facility in southeast Houston, killing four workers and injuring seven others.

On July 23, workers Jacqueline Allen, Elvina Mixon, Ernest Maxwell and Ramiro Serna filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County District Court.

Represented by Houston attorney Terry Bryant, the plaintiffs claim they were seriously injured and are suing defendants Deep South Crane & Rigging Investments, LyondellBasell, Houston Refining and Lyondell company Vice President James Roecker.

The plaintiffs are suing for medical expenses, lost wages and actual damages.

Bryant has been actively advertising for victims, and links to his law firm appear on a Google search for "July 18 crane collapse."

Owned by the Baton Rouge, La.-based Deep South Crane & Rigging, the crane is one of the nation's largest mobile cranes, at 300 feet tall with a 400-foot boom. Construction cranes run taller, but they are not mobile.

The Associated Press reported that the crane at the refinery had been delivered in pieces and assembled on site within the last month. It was brought in to remove the roof of the coker unit – which converts crude oil to petroleum products -- so large drums could be removed from inside.

Deep South Crane has offices in Beaumont.

"The first lawsuit has been filed in Harris County on behalf of Grant Pasek, who was injured when he had to jump from the crane when he saw it begin to fall over. He was 45 feet in the air at the time," the Bryant Web site states.

Bryant does not represent Pasek, but states that he "is currently handling several cases related to this tragic accident."

In the Jefferson County suit, Bryant writes that his clients were contracted employees, working inside the plant at the time of the collapse.

"Plaintiff(s) (were) seriously injured as a result of the incident … (their) injuries were caused by the negligent acts of defendants," he wrote.

The Houston incident is the latest in a series of crane failures at construction sites around the country, including two collapses in New York City this spring that claimed nine lives.

An Associated Press analysis in June found that cities and states have wildly varying rules governing construction cranes, and some have no regulations at all, choosing instead to rely on federal guidelines dating back nearly 40 years that some experts say haven't kept up with technological advances.

Texas led the nation with 26 crane-related fatalities in 2005 and 2006, according to federal statistics. Cranes in Texas operate without any state or local oversight, leaving that job to federal regulators.

Some Houston city officials are considering imposing inspection regulations on cranes working within the city.

Judge Gary Sanderson of the 60th Judicial District has been assigned to the case.

Case No. B182-113

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