Even though workers’ compensation is supposed to be the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries and death, lawyers will find a way to make someone pay even more, especially in the case of a fatality.
Example: Joshua Petrie was a plant operator at a natural gas processing facility in Texas owned by Quicksilver Resources.
On May 25, 2007, 27-year-old Petrie and another worker were trying to restart a hot oil heater.
After trying several times, they couldn’t restart the heater. They were unaware that gas had accumulated, and when Petrie tried to light the heater one more time, it exploded.
Petrie was found unconscious nearby. He never regained consciousness and died several hours later at a hospital. He suffered extensive injuries including blunt force trauma to the head, face, neck and back, and multiple rib and vertebrae fractures.
Quicksilver bought the plant from Hanover Compression L.P. The plant had been idle for two years. As part of the sales agreement, Hanover agreed to return the plant to operating order, which included installation of the heater that exploded.
Lawyers for Petrie’s estate argued that Hanover didn’t follow National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for installation of the heater. Hanover argued the NFPA standards didn’t apply to this heater and that Petrie’s negligence caused the explosion because he failed to close one of the heater’s gas feed valves.
The jury sided with the arguments from Petrie’s estate. It found Hanover 90% responsible and Quicksilver 10% responsible. The jury also found gross negligence by Hanover, which accounted for $25 million of the verdict.
The jury awarded his widow, three young children (four-years-old and younger) and his father a total of $82.5 million. Since Quicksilver had workers’ comp insurance, it wasn’t responsible for any actual damages.
It’s difficult to put a price on a human life. What do you think of the verdict amount? Let us know in the Comments Box below.