A Harris County jury has awarded severely burned refinery workers and the parents of one deceased laborer millions upon millions of dollars.
On March 6, 2012, a volatile rupture that “rained liquid fire” at the Valero refinery in Memphis killed one man and injured several others, court documents state.
A month later, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, representing the injured workers and their families, filed suit against several companies on April 12, 2012 in Harris County District Court.
Although most of the defendants in the case opted to settle, on Aug. 6 a jury found Critical Path Resources, the lone remaining defendant, 6 percent negligent in causing the incident, awarding the plaintiffs in the case a total of $159 million for their mental anguish, pain, disfigurement, impairment and medical expenses, court records show.
The staggering award is not bolstered by punitive damages.
According to court documents and news reports, the plaintiff workers were instructed to block off the refinery’s south flare line on a two-story platform when the rupture occurred.
The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration found workers weren’t protected from hydrocarbons lingering in the knock out drum and instructed to perform the work with the flare still on.
According to the seventh amended petition, JV Industrial employed the plaintiffs. Valero was overseeing the project and Critical Path provided planning and scheduling assistance.
The plaintiffs argued Critical Path was negligent in preparing a work schedule that was unsafe.
The jury found Valero was 70 percent negligent in causing the incident and JVIC 14 percent, according to the charge of the court.
The remaining 10 percent was divided up between three companies, UP Professional 6 percent, Certified Safety 3 percent and Taylor Technical 1 percent.
Buzbee has had a string of victories so far in 2015 at the Harris County courthouse.
In May, he scored a $35 million jury verdict following a civil trial between rival grocers.
Attorney Howard Close of Houston law firm Close & Wright represents Critical Path.
Case No. 2012-21574