Arnold & Itkin Wins $15.4 Million Jury Verdict for 4 Workers Injured in 2013 Geismar Explosion
Our firm fought for workers who were injured in the plant explosion, securing them a massive verdict and overcoming the normal limits set by workers’ compensation.
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,
Attorney's fees and expenses totaled $0.00.