ExxonMobil, plaintiff agree to dismiss appeal before going to court

David Yates Jan. 13, 2009, 5:25am

Last June, the Southeast Texas Record reported on a personal injury trial in which jurors found against Exxon Mobil and awarded plaintiff Vickie Hall $1 million for her self-mutilating injury.

Four months following the verdict, the oil giant appealed. And on Jan. 8 justices on the Texas Ninth District Court of Appeals issued an opinion stating they had granted the parties' joint motion to dismiss.

"The appellant, Exxon Mobil Corporation, and the appellee, Vickie Lynn Hall, filed a joint motion to dismiss this appeal. The motion is voluntarily made by the parties prior to any decision of this Court," stated an opinion authored by Chief Justice Steve McKeithen. "We grant the motion and dismiss the appeal."

The opinion does not state if the parties settled out of court.

The trial of Hall vs. ExxonMobil began June 17 in Judge Gary Sanderson's 60th District Court, and concluded June 25 with an award of $1 million.

The plaintiff's attorney, Brett Thomas, had asked jurors to award his client $3.7 million for inadvertently sticking her hand in a rotary feeder.

Case history

Hall was an employee of J.E. Merritt working on the conveyor line as an independent contractor when she was injured Nov. 3, 2005.

Earlier that day, according to court documents, the conveyor began spilling polyethylene pellets onto the floor. To solve the problem, workers came up with modifications to the machine. A few hours later, Hall was using the altered equipment when parts of her fingers were sliced off.

At trial, jurors were asked to decide whether ExxonMobil negligently failed to place a guard over the rotary blade, or if Hall, who knew a spinning blade hovered only inches away from her hand, was solely responsible for her injury.

According to statements made in court, Hall was warned not to stick her hand anywhere near an unguarded rotary blade, but continued to sweep away polyethylene pellets pouring through the fan while simultaneously arguing with her boss. Hall's glove became caught in the blade, slicing off parts of three fingers.

Claiming her hand was caught in an "unsafe machine," Hall filed a negligence suit against the oil giant in June 2006.

"It is not in dispute that (Hall) suffered a catastrophic injury, not only has a piece of her body been taken away but a piece of her life � all because ExxonMobil designed a bad system," Thomas said in his closing remarks during the trial.

Defense attorney Greg Holloway said during the course of the trial that Hall simply "wasn't paying attention to what she was doing."

Jurors ended up agreeing with both sides, finding that both ExxonMobil and Hall equally were responsible for the incident.

Finding ExxonMobil and Hall each 50 percent negligent, jurors still chose to award Hall $367,000 in lost wages, $300,000 in physical pain and impairment, $150,000 for her disfigurement, $150,000 in mental anguish damages, and $70,000 in medical expenses - totaling $1,037,000 in damages.

During the trial, Hall's boss testified that when he visited Hall in the hospital, she told him that "she knew better" and that it was her fault.

However one of Hall's attorneys, Jeffrey Roebuck of Beaumont, said Hall was in a medicated state at the time of her boss' visit and didn't know what she was saying -- if she even made the remark at all.

Trial case No. B177-168
Appeals case No. 09-08-00423-CV

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