Worker with back injury claims Rowan forced him to lift heavy material

Kelly Holleran Jan. 27, 2010, 9:21am

A Port Neches man claims he cannot return to his career as a construction worker because of a back injury he sustained while attempting to lift heavy equipment.

Rafael Gutierrez filed a lawsuit Jan. 22 in Jefferson County District Court against Rowan Companies.

Gutierrez claims he worked as a welder for Precision Petroleum on April 2 when he and his co-workers were assigned to work on an old land rig and remodel new rigs.

As part of their job, Gutierrez and his co-workers were supposed to install pad eyes, which are 1-inch thick plates that are approximately 3 feet by 2 feet, according to the complaint.

Defendant Rowan provided the equipment to move the heavy eye pads to the installation site, the suit states. However, Rowan had no forklift available and directed Gutierrez and his co-workers to lift the pad eyes by hand, the complaint says.

"Plaintiff and two other Precision Petroleum employees were lifting the pad eyes by hand," the suit states. "They carried it over to where it would be installed. When they let it down, all of the weight ended up being held by Plaintiff. Plaintiff heard a 'pop' in his lower back."

Following the incident, Gutierrez claims he went to Tower Medical Center in Nederland, where his treating physician recommended that he undergo Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The MRI revealed a herniated disc in Gutierrez's spine, and Gutierrez's physician recommended he have surgery, according to the complaint.

"Plaintiff would show that at the time of the accident he was 36 years old," the suit states. "He has worked doing construction or similar work all his life. As a result of his accident and resulting injuries, he will not be able to return to the work that he was doing.

"If he is fortunate, he will be able to return to some type of work, but he most likely will not obtain work equal to what he had and will not be able to work as long."

Gutierrez seeks exemplary damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Steven C. Barkley of Beaumont will be representing him.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A185-776.

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