A Louisiana jury has awarded four workers a total of almost $13.6 million for the injuries they suffered in a 2013 explosion at a petrochemical plant. Two were killed and 114 were injured in the explosion. More lawsuits are yet to be heard in the case.
The jury in Iberville Parish said Williams Companies Inc. and two plant officials were negligent and knew with substantial certainty that the deadly fire and resulting explosion would occur.
The parent company had argued its local branch, Williams Olefins, was the responsible party. An attorney for the four injured workers said it was an attempt to “shift blame onto their shell company.”
Jurors found Williams Companies 95% responsible, holding company Williams Olefins 3% responsible, and two supervisors each 1% responsible.
Pressure had built in a propane reboiler that ruptured, resulting in the massive explosion. Testimony showed employees had documented the hazard dozens of times since 2006. The plant manager testified the reboiler was “an accident waiting to happen.”
One injured worker will receive $9.4 million, another was awarded $3.6 million and the remaining two were awarded $360,000 and $205,000.
This trial is just the first in connection with the 2013 explosion. More than 100 other plaintiffs have filed similar lawsuits.
Williams operates thousands of miles of natural gas pipeline and multiple facilities in several states. Some of its other facilities have also experienced explosions, including one in 2015 in Gibson, LA, that killed three people.
The company says it plans to appeal this verdict. A statement Williams issued says, “Nothing about the tragic accident at the Williams Olefins facility in Geismar on June 13, 2013, was intentional.”
Kurt Arnold, attorney for the four workers, said, “This accident doesn’t happen if the board of directors and CEOs heeded the warnings they were told.”