Wrongful death suit filed after recent fatality at BP

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Oct. 22, 2008, 1:28pm

Tony Buzbee

GALVESTON – The family of a Galveston County contract worker who was killed while working at a local petroleum refinery three weeks ago is seeking damages from his employer and the facility's owner, recent court documents say.

The estate of Ramon V. Sifuentes Jr. blames Gaia Environmental Incorporated and BP for an incident Oct. 9 at a dump site at the BP properties in Texas City. Court papers state that a backhoe being used as a crane reportedly buckled and crushed Sifuentes, and his family alleges the defendants failed to take safety precautions.

"Mr. Sifuentes's job was being supervised by BP supervisors," the suit, which was filed before Galveston County District Court on Oct. 17, says. "Mr. Sifuentes's crew was rushed. Necessary equipment to do the job safely was not available."

It also chastises the defendants for using the backhoe when it was unnecessary.

"The backhoe should have never been used to do the job," the complaint argues. "Proper procedures should have been in place."

The original complaint states that Sifuentes leaves behind a loving and broken family.

The Sifuentes claim the event overall was brought forth by Gaia and BP's alleged negligence. They believe the defendants failed to do the following:

  • Ensure that proper equipment was available and used;
  • Ensure that a qualified watch was controlling a lifting operation;
  • Ensure that lifting operations were performed with the appropriate lifting equipment;
  • Ensure that lifting equipment was immobilized and secure during lifting operations;
  • Properly train and staff members working in the dump site;
  • Properly supervise operations in the dump site;
  • Properly maintain equipment; and
  • Give employees, contractors, and workers safe timelines in which to perform assigned tasks.

    The complaint states that Gaia and BP are legally responsible to the plaintiffs for the defendants' negligent conduct under the doctrines of respondeat superior and res ipsa loquitur.

    Represented by Galveston attorney Tony G. Buzbee, the Sifuentes seek damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of affection, loss of consortium, counseling, and lost earnings. A request for a jury trial was also filed.

    The plant was the site of the March 23, 2005 explosions that killed 15 and injured more than 170. BP is fresh from a record two-month civil trial that settled virtually all of the 4,000 cases against the London-based petroleum company.

    Company spokesperson Darren Beaudo told The Galveston County Daily News last week that BP "has been working very hard to improve safety culture and safety performance at the Texas City refinery. We have more to do and we are committed to doing that."

    Galveston County 10th District Court Judge David Garner is presiding over the case.

    Case No. 08CV1050

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