Bouchard Says Safety Record Irrelevant to Port Aransas Barge Explosion
Recently, our blog comprehensively covered Bouchard Transportation's safety record—their history of ignoring serious vapor leaks, their culture of secrecy, and their high turnover rate that kept problems from being solved conclusively. All of these problems contributed to the barge explosion last October that killed two men. Our firm is representing the family of one of the men who died that night.
The Coast Guard recently concluded a two-week hearing where they heard from former Bouchard employees, Coast Guard commanders, and individuals who testified to the safety aboard the New York-based barge company. The testimony also included information about other Bouchard vessels whose problems bore a striking resemblance to the ones that killed the two crew members. Now, Bouchard is demanding that the testimony about its fleet be disregarded.
Attempting to Restrain the Truth
During the hearings, Bouchard Transportation sued in federal court to restrict the Coast Guard investigation to the barge that exploded—dismissing any evidence found in the safety record of their other vessels. The suit was filed from the U.S. District Court in Houston. The company also attempted to stop the hearing from continuing, which was refused by the judge.
Their 'argument' was that their treatment of their employees only weeks prior to the accident, their continued refusal to repair major safety hazards until the fatal explosion, and their culture of intimidation as described by former workers amounted to a "character attack." The company's complaint also said their reputation was being "irreparably harmed" due to the testimony arising from the hearings.
The complaint criticized the Coast Guard's eliciting testimony from 20 years of operation history, but as our previous blog noted, much of the relevant testimony came from May to October 2017—mere months before the explosion. In fact, two captains quit a Bouchard vessel at the same time in October 2017 due to safety conditions.
Our firm's lawsuit argues that Bouchard has a “documented history of failing to operate their barges in a safe manner and putting the crew of their barges at grave risk." Hiding the evidence of that history won't change it.
The Same Story with Different Details
Their complaint doesn't end with the Coast Guard investigation. Bouchard Transportation—a decades-old oil transport business—is joining a host of other negligent shipping companies by invoking the Limited Liability Act of 1851. Virtually any company that's had a disaster at sea hides behind a 160-year-old law from the time of wooden ships and unpredictable weather patterns.
Additionally, the company is attacking the specific complaints of the families seeking justice for their loved ones. For instance, Bouchard has asked the court to keep our clients from seeking damages for the pain and suffering their loved one experienced in his final moments.
We believe it's only right that his family be able to hold Bouchard responsible for it.
The court will decide whether or not Bouchard Transportation will be able to shield itself from providing for the families of dead employees using an antiquated law. Until the judge hears our case, we'll continue fighting for justice on every front—helping our client's grieving family change the industry that took their boy away from them.
Read GCaptain'sreport on our case.