Popped clutch leads to suit against Motiva, construction company

Marilyn Tennissen Sep. 8, 2008, 11:41am

A worker checking trucks as they entered the Motiva refinery claims one of the drivers purposely jerked the truck forward causing her to fall off and sustain injuries.

Patricia Rodrigue filed a personal injury suit against Headwaters Construction Materials LLC and Motiva Enterprises LLC on Sept. 4 in Jefferson County District Court.

According to the original complaint, on Sept. 5, 2006, Rodrigue was employed by Compass Environmental Inc. at the Motiva plant in Port Arthur. Part of her job included checking 18-wheelers as they entered the plant.

The trucks were carrying fly ash that was used for environmental remediation.

On the day in question, a truck owned by Headwaters Construction Materials came into the plant and Rodrigue stood on the steps of the truck to check the driver's paperwork, court papers say.

"Before she had the chance to get off the truck, the Headwater's truck driver popped the clutch and dumped plaintiff off of the truck," the suit states. "Plaintiff fell into a ditch that was located next to the roadway."

Rodrigue claims she tried to catch herself with her right hand, and her right wrist "was literally folded back over itself."

The woman underwent surgery and had a titanium rod inserted to repair her wrist.

In addition, Rodrigue claims she sustained a full thickness tear to her right rotator cuff that has not yet been surgically repaired.

"Plaintiff continues to have significant problems with her right wrist and shoulder," the suit claims.

According to the complaint, Rodrigue was evaluated on April 22 at the request of the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission. A doctor's evaluation found a 5 percent impairment to the body as a whole that is a "direct result of the work-related injury" the suit states.

Headwaters Construction is negligent because its driver moved the truck before Rodrigue had an opportunity to dismount, failed to keep a proper lookout, popped the clutch to make the truck move unexpectedly and failed to follow normal routine, the complaint states.

Motiva Enterprises is negligent, the suit claims, because it should have known that the ditch next to the roadway was unreasonably deep and posed an unreasonable risk of harm to people working in the area. Motiva was also allegedly negligent in its maintenance of the ditch.

"Specifically, Motiva filled or covered the ditch almost immediately after plaintiff's accident," the suit states. "Motiva could and should have done so before plaintiff's accident."

Rodrigue is seeking damages for loss of earnings and earning capacity, medical expense, pain, suffering and mental anguish, interest and costs.

Steven Barkley of Beaumont is representing the plaintiff.

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

Caes No. E182-352

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