Attorneys Kurt Arnold, Kyle Findley, and Kala Sellers have won a verdict of $15,458,434.32 for our clients, who were injured and traumatized by the Williams Olefins plant explosion in 2013. The blast occurred during a $400 million expansion project, which was initiated while operations continued at the plant. The CEO and the board of directors were warned that continuing operations would put workers at increased risk, but they overruled the safety warnings and ordered that the plant continue operating instead of shutting down for a few months for the expansion project.
As a result, a reboiler over-pressurized from the lack of a functioning valve, causing an explosion that could be seen for miles. Our clients were all injured in the blast and were forced to flee the site immediately. The event left them with both physical and psychological injuries, and they needed compensation to help heal.
The plant’s owners’ parent company, Williams Companies, Inc., attempted to limit their compensation by placing the blame on Williams Olefins LLC—the holding company for the plant. With a vast amount of experience with plant operations, Arnold & Itkin attorneys set out to find the truth. After receiving over 100,000 documents, we found that the pressure relief valve for the reboiler was not opened.
More importantly, we found that the isolated reboiler was the subject of multiple audits and safety warnings—all of which were ignored, as the necessary repair was never provided. We discovered evidence that the Defendants had “substantial certainty” that an explosion would occur under those circumstances. As a result, our clients could seek compensation beyond the limits set by workers’ compensation. The most vital evidence we found, however, was proof that Williams Companies, Inc. were the true employers of plant managers and personnel, and were in control of daily operations at the site.
During trial, the Defendants insisted that they were protected by the statutory employer defense. They continued to exclusively blame Williams Olefins LLC, which would limit their responsibility for the explosion. However, after 3 weeks the jury saw the truth—they awarded a judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs, and found that the plant managers were actually employees of Williams Companies, Inc.
As a result, the jury assigned 95% responsibility to Williams Companies, Inc. and 3% to Williams Olefins LLC. Both were found to have substantial certainty about the inevitability of an explosion, and so a sizable award was able to be given to our clients.
The jury awarded our clients the following: Shawn Thomas ($9.4 million), Christopher Devall ($3.6 million), Eduardo Elizondo ($360,000), and Michael Danton ($205,000). The award was made of the original judgment ($13,679,933.) as well as pre-judgment interest ($1,778,409.79). All told, our clients were awarded over $15.4 million for their injuries and pain.
Arnold & Itkin was proud to help our clients get the help and justice they needed. We are also honored to be representing over 100 more workers in upcoming trials with Clayton, Fruge, and Ward—fighting to get every injured worker the compensation due to them. This case was presided over by the Honorable Elizabeth Engolio and was filed in Iberville Parish, Louisiana.