When a Montana oil field worker is injured on the job, his or her first avenue of recovery is usually a workers’ compensation claim against his employer. If the negligence of a third party, other than the worker’s employer, contributed to the accident, the worker can also bring a civil lawsuit against that third party for damages. This appears to be what attorneys for an oil field worker injured on the job in a 2009 accident in Goldsmith, Texas did. The strategy paid off: in October of this year, a West Texas jury awarded the worker and his family $11 million in damages arising out of a 2009 accident that caused severe damage to the man’s right arm.
The man was injured when a heavy pipe casing fell about 15 feet from an oilfield elevator, a device that clamps around a pipe so it can be raised and lowered in an oil well. The pipe casing tore the nerve endings out of the man’s shoulder and neck. After four surgeries and $500,000 in medical expenses, the man still does not have full use of his right arm.
The worker sued the company that sold the elevator, alleging that it malfunctioned and caused the pipe casing to fall. The company argued that the device did not malfunction, that it was being used improperly, and that the worker should not have been under it when the accident occurred. The jury, however, found that the elevator was defective at the time of the accident.
Whether the man will ultimately receive the money damages is not yet certain. The company has the opportunity to bring post-trial motions to ask the judge to set aside the verdict. If that is unsuccessful, they have the right to appeal to a higher court where they may argue that the judge did not apply the law correctly, or that the jury’s verdict is unsupported by the evidence. The case nonetheless illustrates the monetary value a jury can place on a disabling injury that happens in the oil fields.
Source: Odessa American, “Oilfield worker, family, awarded more than $11 million in trial,” Oct. 22, 2012