BEAUMONT – A recent motion to designate a responsible third party seeks to make sure a jury has the opportunity to assign blame to Kinder Morgan if the defendant should be non-suited from a wrongful death lawsuit.

Last September, Wanda Counts, representing the estate of Thomas “Gary” Counts, filed suit against Total Petrochemicals in Jefferson County District Court, seeking more than $1 million in damages.

According to the lawsuit, Gary died on Sept. 5, 2015 at the Total refinery in Port Arthur “in the most horrific way imaginable.”

Kinder Morgan employed Gary, 57, at the time as a heavy equipment operator. He was working a bulldozer in a coke pit when he drowned in scolding hot water.

Kinder Morgan and Total are faulted for having no emergency rescue plan, among many other acts of alleged negligence.

Court records show that on Sept. 1 Total filed a motion for leave to designate responsible third parties, stating the motion was brought out of “an abundance of caution” to ensure a jury can assign a percentage of blame to Kinder Morgan should the company be non-suited.

Kinder Morgan was non-suited in May but named again in a third amended petition in June.

A fourth amended petition, filed Sept. 12, named both Total and Kinder Morgan as defendants, court records show.

Total argues Kinder Morgan retained complete control over Gary’s work and was responsible for its employee’s safety.

Total is represented by Scott Cowan and Elizabeth Myers, attorneys for the Houston law firm Jones Day.

Beaumont attorney Clay Dugas represents the plaintiff.

Judge Kent Walston, 58th District Court, is presiding over the case.

Case No. A-197516

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