Case over mentally challenged man's burns settles

By David Yates | May 23, 2011

A case over a mentally challenged man's burns settled on Friday, following nearly two years of litigation.

As previously reported, James Anderson filed suit against Virgil and Rodney Martel on Oct. 15, 2009, in Jefferson County District Court.

Virgil Martel was the owner of the property where the incident occurred and the suit's last remaining defendant.

Virgil Martel filed a motion for summary judgment on Nov. 12, asserting that he did not operate the wielding shop and is therefore not responsible for Anderson's injuries.

His motion was denied, so Virgil Martel filed another motion in April, this one for a partial summary judgment.

In addition, the Martels filed a notice taking special exceptions to Anderson's petition -- which had been amended for the fifth time. They argued the petition was not clear on premises liability.

Anderson filed his sixth amended petition on May 2, again stating Virgil Martel was the owner of the property where the incident occurred.

The case was set to go to trial on Monday, May 23, but the parties notified the court three days prior that an undisclosed settlement had been reached, according to a courthouse official.

Case background

In his suit, Anderson claims he was performing yard work at the Martels' property on June 23, 2009, when he heard activity coming from a structure on the property.

Anderson entered the structure and began speaking with Kevin Martel, a 15-year-old relative of Virgil and Rodney Martel, who was welding a handle onto a vessel, court records show.

Court records show the vessel had previously contained diesel or some other fuel and was not properly cleaned and not prepared for welding, causing it to explode and catch on fire.

"Plaintiff alleges that the vessel exploded and that such explosion was a proximate cause of catastrophic injuries to the Plaintiff," the complaint says.

Anderson was suing to recover medical expenses and damages for his alleged mental anguish.

Tommy L. Yeates and Anthony Malley III of Moore Landrey in Beaumont represented him.

Germer Gertz attorney Larry Simmons of Beaumont represented Virgil Martel.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, presided over the case.

Case No. E185-134

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