Six defendants named in injury suit over furnace explosion

Kelly Holleran Aug. 30, 2010, 6:51am

A Beaumont man has filed suit against a number of companies that he claims bears responsibility for a furnace explosion that left him injured.

Robert Patella claims he worked for Chemtrade at a chemical plant in Beaumont on Aug. 21, 2008, when the explosion occurred.

"The furnace used a pilot light and natural gas to heat the furnace," the suit filed Aug. 20 in Jefferson County District Court states. "Prior to the Pilot light being lit, natural gas accumulated in the furnace. When the pilot lights ignited, the furnace exploded."

Patella, who was standing near the furnace at the time of the explosion, claims he incurred medical costs and experienced physical anguish, pain, suffering, physical impairment and disfigurement, the complaint says. In addition, Patella lost wages, according to the complaint.

Whitney C. Patella and A.J. Patella, Robert Patella's son, claim they have lost Robert Patella's affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society and assistance.

In their complaint, the Patellas name Emerson Electric Co., Maxon Corp. and Honeywell International as defendants, saying all are liable for the explosion.

Defendant Emerson designed a control valve on the furnace while defendant Maxon distributed the valves.

The valve leaked and allowed an accumulation of natural gas into the furnace before the pilot light was lit, according to the complaint.

Defendant Honeywell designed an Ultra Violet System, which was supposed to assure the pilot light was lit before gas would be allowed in the furnace, the suit states.

In addition to Emerson, Maxon and Honeywell, the Patellas name Newton Electoral Services and Kyle Wier as defendants.

Newton and Wier were supposed to maintain and repair the furnace and its electrical system, but negligently failed to ensure proper start-up procedures, failed to ensure reasonable safety protocols, failed to keep the valves from failing, failed to properly inspect equipment controls, failed to properly warn of unsafe equipment and bypassed safety features in the furnace electrical system, the complaint says.

A sixth defendant, J.V. Industrial Cos., provided mechanical services in the installation of the burner system, but negligently failed to provide a proper start-up procedure, failed to provide a reasonably safe work environment, failed to keep the workplace safe, failed to properly install the burner system, failed to properly inspect equipment controls, failed to properly execute work on the furnace and failed to properly install equipment, the Patellas claim.

In their complaint, the Patellas are seeking exemplary damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief to which they may be entitled.

Andrew B. Sommerman of Sommerman and Quesada in Dallas will be representing them.

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

Jefferson County District Court case number: D187-720.

More News