PLAQUEMINE, La. — A Louisiana jury awarded a total of $13.6 million to four men injured in the 2013 explosion at the Williams Olefins Geismar plant.
The Advocate reports a jury in Iberville Parish ruled late Monday night the company, several plant officials and its parent company were negligent and knew with substantial certainty that the deadly fire could occur.
“For a month they were trying to shift blame onto their shell company (Williams Olefins) and I’m glad the jury saw right through it,” Kurt Arnold, attorney for the plaintiffs, said after Monday night’s verdict.
The jury found that Williams’ Oklahoma-based parent company was 95 percent responsible for the explosion and Williams Olefins was 3 percent to blame. The jury apportioned 1 percent of the blame on plant official Parker Tucker and 1 percent for plant supervisor Larry Bayer, who were also named defendants in the lawsuit. The jury absolved defendant Erick Comeaux, a plant official.
Plaintiff Shawn Thomas will receive the highest payout in damages, awarded $9.4 million for past and future medical bills, lost wages and mental anguish, and pain and suffering. Kris Devall was awarded $3.6 million and Eduardo Elizondo and Michael Dantone were awarded $360,000 and $205,000, respectively.
The company, in a written statement issued after the verdict, says it plans to appeal: “Nothing about the tragic accident at the Williams Olefins facility in Geismar on June 13, 2013 was intentional. We believe there is sufficient Louisiana case law that supports our legal position, and we will appeal the jury verdict rendered in the 18th Judicial District Court.”
“This accident doesn’t happen if the board of directors and CEOs heeded the warnings they were told,” Arnold told the jurors.
But the jury was asked by defense attorneys to view the decisions and actions of the company and its plant officials as a mistake they never intended to happen.
“This case is not about responsibility. Williams Olefins already accepted responsibility,” defense attorney Glenn Farnet said. “It was a horrible mistake. Human beings make mistakes. Mistakes are not intent.”
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com