Electrician files suit against refinery after switch thrown by plant employee

Kelly Holleran Jan. 27, 2009, 9:35am

A Louisiana man claims he was severely burned after he received an electrical shock while working at a local plant and filed suit against the refinery.

John Burnham and his wife Amy filed suit against ExxonMobil on Jan. 21 in Jefferson County District Court.

Burnham, an employee of MMR Group, was performing electrical work on equipment that normally carried 2,400 volts of electricity at the ExxonMobil refinery in Beaumont on Dec. 22 when the incident occurred.

While Burnham was working on the equipment, Stacy Williams, an expert electrical planner for ExxonMobil, threw a tiebreaker switch outside the building, the suit states.

That action caused an electrical current to back-flow into the equipment where Burnham and others were working, Burnham claims.

"As a result, Plaintiff was seriously shocked, resulting in serious burns and injuries," the suit states.

Because of the incident, Burnham experienced lost earnings and a lost earning capacity, incurred medical expenses and suffered physical pain and mental anguish, according to the complaint.

He also claims he experienced a physical impairment, disfigurement and scarring.

Amy Burnham suffered from a loss of consortium and provided nursing services to her husband, according to the complaint.

ExxonMobil owed Burnham a duty of ordinary care, but breached that duty when its employee threw the switch, according to the complaint.

It also had the duty to protect Burnham from an unreasonable risk of harm but breached that duty by failing to warn Burnham of dangers and by failing to make the condition reasonably safe, Burnham alleges.

The Burnhams are seeking actual damages in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits of Jefferson County District Court, plus pre- and post-judgment interest at the maximum rate allowed by law, costs and other relief to which they may be entitled.

Joe B. Stephens of The Stephens Law Firm in Katy is representing the plaintiffs.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court.

Case No. D183-088

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