Pipefitters sue refinery for failing to clear pipe prior to repair

By Marilyn Tennissen | Oct 9, 2008

Two pipefitters say they sustained respiratory injuries when the pipeline they had been instructed to work on had not been properly cleared and suddenly released hazardous chemicals into the air.

Jefferson County residents John Hardin and Dexter Harris filed suit against Exxon Mobil Corp. and Evergreen Industrial Services on Oct. 6 in Jefferson County District Court.

The men claim that on May 3 they were working for BGI Contractors at the Exxon Mobil facility in Beaumont to repair a pipeline. Employees from Evergreen Industrial were also part of the repair crew and the task involved breaking a pipeline to replace a gasket in the line.

"As instructed, plaintiffs broke the line, and upon doing so, hazardous chemicals and/or vapors suddenly and unexpectedly escaped from within the pipeline," the complaint states.

Hardin and Harris claim they were immediately exposed to the chemicals for an extended period as they attempted to leave the area, and claim their air quality monitors were set off.

They allege that defendants Exxon Mobil and Evergreen failed to properly vent the pipeline and shutdown the flow of hazardous chemicals before instructing them to replace the gasket.
Additionally, the plaintiffs claim they were not provided with adequate respiratory and personal protection.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs sustained severe respiratory injuries that continue to require medical treatment and were out of work for several months.

The defendants were allegedly negligent for:

  • Failing to properly train its employees;
  • Failing to operate the facility in a safe and prudent manner;
  • Failing to implement or enforce safety rules and regulations pertaining to conducting safe operation of clearing pipelines of hazardous chemicals and/or vapors;
  • Failing to hire properly trained employees to instruct independent contractors and subcontractors;
  • Failing to provide safety equipment;
  • Failing to warn plaintiffs and others that hazardous chemicals were present in the pipeline;
  • Failing to adequately supervise the proper venting of the pipeline;
  • Failing to enact or enforce adequate guidelines and protocol for venting pipelines, and
  • Violating applicable safety and health codes and regulations.

    "Each of these acts and omissions, singularly or in combination with others, constitute negligence and negligence per se, which was the proximate cause of this incident and injuries sustained by plaintiffs," the complaint states.

    The plaintiffs are seeking damages for pain and disability, mental anguish, loss of earnings, loss of earning capacity, medical expenses, disfigurement, impairment, interest and other relief to which they may be entitled.

    Brenton Allison of Gilman Allison LLP in Pearland is representing John Hardin. James Amaro of the Amaro Law Firm in Houston is representing Dexter Harris.

    The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

    Case No. E182-502

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