Refinery worker sues over chemical burns

Kelly Holleran Jun. 15, 2010, 7:57am

A Beaumont man has filed suit against ExxonMobil, alleging its employee did not adequately warn him of a dangerous chemical inside a pipe that caused significant burns to his arm.

Charles Wilson claims he worked for Miller Environmental Services and, as part of his job duties, was required to clean out a drain line. Before he could begin working on the line, however, Wilson had to obtain a safe work permit, according to the complaint filed June 7 in Jefferson County District Court.

On April 27, 2009, while working at an ExxonMobil plant, Wilson obtained the required safe work permit, which the ExxonMobil operator filled out to indicate there were no chemical hazards present in the drain line, the suit states.

"The operator did note 'possible caustic residue,'" the complaint says. "However, the operator did not review this 'possible' chemical hazard with Plaintiff. Had he done so, he would have provided the MSDS, talked about exposure potential, discussed required personal protective equipment and generally given Plaintiff an adequate warning as to what Plaintiff might be exposed to. He did not do so."

When Wilson began his work on the drain line, he stuck his arm into a pipe, he claims. Suddenly, his right hand began to burn, according to the complaint.

"As it turned out, it was a significant percentage of some sort of caustic chemical in the pipe that caused significant burns to Plaintiff's right forearm from his wrist to his elbow," the suit states.

After the accident, Wilson attempted to continue his work with Miller Environmental Services, but had to stop in the middle of September when his physician took him off work, the complaint says.

Wilson claims he was earning $15 per hour at the time of his accident, but has been forced to remain on light duty status because of pain and discomfort in his right arm that prevents him from doing any medium or heavy work.

Because of the incident, Wilson lost wages and his wage-earning capacity; incurred medical expenses; and experienced physical impairment, pain, suffering and mental anguish, the suit states.

Although the ExxonMobil operator did caution Wilson of a possible caustic residue in the pipe, he did not provide Wilson with an adequate warning, leading to Wilson's injuries, the complaint says.

The company negligently failed to inform Wilson of the significant levels of the caustic substance in the area in which he was working, failed to inform Wilson of the personal protective equipment required, failed to provide Wilson with an MSDS for the material to which he was exposed and failed to provide him with a safe work place, according to the complaint.

In his complaint, Wilson is seeking unspecified damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief to which he may be entitled.

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: A187-024.

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