HOUSTON – A Texas appeals court ruled that a lawsuit over injuries sustained in a well fire does not belong in the state because the majority of witnesses are from North Dakota and surrounding states.
XTO Energy Inc. previously filed a petition for a writ of mandamus after a trial court denied its motion to dismiss in a lawsuit involving two men who were injured as a result of a flash fire in North Dakota, according to an opinion filed May 17 in the Court of Appeals for the 1st District of Texas.
The appeals court ruled that it would be unjust to require XTO to continue to litigate the case in Texas because the majority of witnesses are not in Texas. It conditionally granted XTO's petition for writ of mandamus.
XTO contended the trial court abused its discretion by denying the motion, calling Texas an "inconvenient forum" for the lawsuit, according to the opinion.
According to the opinion, the flash fire occurred at a well pad in North Dakota on June 18, 2016, and Daniel Pavon, Justin Pyle, Richard Chadwick Maheu and Joseph C. Guillen were injured. A fifth man, John Stassinos, died due to the injuries he sustained in the flash fire.
Pavon and Pyle, along with their spouses and on behalf of their children, filed a lawsuit in Harris County District Court against XTO and other companies that they claimed were negligent and caused their injuries.
During depositions, XTO claimed it uncovered evidence that was relevant to the allegations in the lawsuit and that portions of the events in the lawsuit occurred in Texas, according to the opinion.
XTO filed a motion to stay or dismiss the lawsuit on May 12, 2017, which was denied on Aug. 4, 2017. The trial was scheduled to begin on March 26 and XTO then filed a petition for writ of mandamus.
The appeals court wrote in the opinion that none of the material fact witnesses reside in Texas, nor do the other witnesses or the plaintiffs in the case.
The plaintiffs claim that maintaining the case in Texas would not be a substantial injustice to XTO because it and the other defendants have litigated in Texas before.
Court of Appeals for the 1st District of Texas case number 01-17-00652