Articles Posted in Environmental Liability/Toxic Torts

In the District Court of Harris County, Texas, a jury awarded over $40 million to owners of oil production facilities nearly 12 years after Hurricane Rita struck the Gulf Coast. The oil company plaintiff hired experienced trial lawyers to bring their claim before the civil justice system and hold their insurer accountable for the damages suffered.

In 2005, Prime Natural Resource owned oil and gas drilling platforms off of the coast of Morgan City. These platforms were insured by underwriters at Lloyd’s, London. Hurricane Rita struck Prime’s wells in September 2005 causing over $20 million in damages, including debris removal and restoration. Despite being aware of the damages for over 10 years, the insurance company repeatedly claimed its policy did not cover this particular damage. The policy covering the oil and gas drilling platform was a Wellsure policy, one often used in the energy industry. The Underwriters admitted that they insured the platform, but refused to pay for any individual parts of the well damaged by the Hurricane.

Both the trial court and court of appeals refused to look beyond the language of the insurance contract granting summary judgment in favor of Lloyd’s. The court’s looked to the intent of the parties in interpreting the policy. On appeal Prime brought four causes of action in front of the District Court: (1) breach of contract, (2) unfair or deceptive acts under the insurance code, (3) failure to promptly pay claims, and (4) breach of common law duty of good faith. After a six-week trial, the jury awarded $27.3 million in punitive damages, while also finding the insurers both breached a contract, as well as, violated the state insurance code. In addition to the punitive damages, Prime was awarded $10.9 million in bad faith, $1.8 million in actual damages, and $1.6 million in legal fees.

ABBEVILLE–The District Attorney for the 15th Judicial District, Keith Stutes, has announced the filing of major litigation to recover for damages, restoration costs and actual restoration as a result of oil and gas exploration, production and transportation operations in Vermilion Parish which have “caused substantial damages to land and water bodies, geological formations, and cultural and economic opportunities in violation of Louisiana state law, rules and regulations.”

The 15th Judicial District includes Acadia, Lafayette and Vermilion parishes.

The action by Stutes makes Vermilion Parish one of six Louisiana coastal parishes filing such claims.  The others are Plaquemines, St.  Bernard, Jefferson, Lafourche and Cameron parishes.

Several major oil companies, including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell Oil, were recently named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in Gretna, La.  Hiemie Payne filed suit in the 24th Judicial District Court, alleging failure to inform the plaintiff of danger, failure to mark an area as dangerous, and overall negligence and carelessness.

The complaint states that Payne was an employee of Commercial Pipeline Services for three years during the 1980s.  During that time, he fulfilled a number of duties for the named companies, and was allegedly exposed to dangerously high levels of radioactive scale from products manufactured by the defendants.  Also, Payne claims that he was further injured due to the exposure to radiation in the form of aerosolized dust.

Suits of this nature pose a unique challenge, as plaintiffs must prove specifically which defendant caused him injury at what time in order to get a satisfactory verdict.  It is made that much more difficult that it took place three decades ago. The attorneys at Broussard & David have the knowledge and experience necessary to handle cases of this nature and will fight to obtain fair compensation for your injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered harm because of the fault of another, contact the attorneys at Broussard & David to discuss your legal rights at (337) 233-2323 (local) or (888) 337-2323 (toll-free).

On March 29, suit was filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by Kathryn Swanson, both individually and as special administrator of Denis I. Swanson, her late husband.  Swanson has alleged breach of duty and negligence on the part of McDermott International Inc. and McDermott Inc., claiming that they are at fault for the death of her husband.

According to the suit, Denis Swanson work on derrick barges owned by the defendants and was under their employ for approximately twenty years, from 1977 to 1997.  The suit posits that it was during this time that Swanson was exposed to asbestos, suffering personal injuries and eventually death due to the negligence of the defendants and the unseaworthiness of their vessels.

The complaint states that the defendants failed to maintain their vessels and equipment in a safe and reasonable condition, failed to warn of the dangers of asbestos exposure, failed to provide safe and proper protective equipment, and failed to design, construct, repair, and maintain their vessels in a safe manner.

Anthony Buffinet was aboard the Cry Baby, the fishing vessel Cry Baby, when it was struck by another vessel, according to the suit filed by Buffinet on March 29 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Purportedly, on March 25, 2013, the Cry Baby, owned and operated by Buffinet, was moored at dock in Leeville when it was struck by the DMO Resolve, owned and operated by Dale Martin Offshore LLC.  Buffinet’s suit names Dale Martin Offshore LLC as the defendant, asserting that the fault of the matter is their’s as they failed to maintain proper course and speed, failed to take preventative measures in averting the collision, and negligently operated their vessel.

In addition to damaging the Cry Baby, Buffinet himself was allegedly injured to such a degree that he has been unable to perform his usual duties and has been rendered disabled.  Additionally, he has suffered financial loss and mental pain.

Sometimes, it is the smallest things that leave the largest impact.  On or about March 14, 2014, Brent Little was an employee of Halliburton Energy Services Inc. and serving on the Liftboat Vanessa in the Gulf of Mexico.  It was at this time that a prank was allegedly played on Little.  John Barrow, a fellow crewman, allegedly slipped red tracer dye into Little’s boot.  According to reports, Little wore the tampered boot for 14 hours that day and, upon removing the boots, heard laughter and noticed pink footprints on the floor.  The die stained Little’s foot for three weeks and it was at this time that Little was informed that red tracer dye was a carcinogen.

Flash forward more than a year to May 16, 2015, when Little was involved in an automobile accident, the fallout of which required him to take a CT scan.  According to Little, the scan revealed he had thyroid cancer, forcing him to undergo a thyroidectomy and the removal of lymph nodes.

Little filed suit on March 14 of this year in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against Halliburton and John Barrow, citing negligence.  After the initial incident, Halliburton launched an investigation and found John Barrow responsible for the prank.  One such reason for Little suing Halliburton in addition to Barrow is likely that the jar of red tracer dye in question was under the care and custody of Halliburton, yet it was stored in the crew’s living quarters and had no label or warning signs that identified it as hazardous.

Several corporations and other defendants have been taken to court by a New Orleans woman who claims to have developed ovarian cancer after using defendants’ products.

Paula Jackson filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana New Orleans Division on March 16, naming Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies Inc., Luzenac America Inc., Rio Tinto Minerals Inc., John Does/Jane Does 1-30, and other businesses and/or corporations, whose identities and involvement are as of yet unknown, as defendants.  The Doe defendants are representatives of the corporations whose conduct allegedly caused or contributed to the damages of the plaintiff.

The issues of this case primarily revolve around products containing talc, which defendants Johnson manufactured and defendants Luzenac and Rio have continually marketed as safe for human use.  From about 1974 to 2015, Jackson applied defendants’ products to her groin for feminine hygiene purposes, which is a foreseeable use of such products based on their advertising according to the suit.  On September 27, 2015, Jackson was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 62.  Prior to this diagnosis, she allegedly did not have any of the risk factors normally associated with such a disease.

A lawsuit has been brought against Chevron for a shrimp boat that sank last year, allegedly due to an underwater and unmarked vessel owned by the company.

Hosea Wilson and Shajaun Turner filed suit on January 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against Chevron USA, Inc.  They claimed negligence on the part Chevron which resulted in damage to personal property and personal injury.

According to the suit, on March 19, Wilson and Turner were piloting a 36-foot Newton shrimp boat in Garden Island Bay in Plaquemines Parish.  It was at this time that their vessel collided with a submerged and unmarked vessel owned by Chevron.  The collision caused heavy hull damage to Wilson’s boat, and injured both men, according to the complaint.  Additionally, the hull damage was so severe that Wilson’s boat took on water and sank.

Two men’s routine fishing trip was literally and figuratively upheaved when another marine vessel’s high rate of speed resulted in the capsizing of their boat, allegedly leaving the two men with various injuries.

Benjamin Lee Hines, Sr., and Andreas Damone Vitto sued Southern States Offshore Inc. on January 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana., alleging negligence and personal injury liability.

According to the suit, the two men were fishing out of a recreational vessel around Maxie’s Grocery Store near Intercostal City in Vermillion Parish on September 27, 2014.  At a certain time that day, Southern States Offshore’s vessel, the Southern Belle, entered that waterway at an alleged high rate of speed.  The suit states that the rate was much too fast for prevailing conditions that day, and caused an intense wake.  It is this wake which allegedly capsized the boat Hines and Vitto were fishing out of, knocking both men into the water.

Another lawsuit has arisen from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, this time stemming from the cleanup of the aforementioned accident.

Josip Piacun filed a complaint against BP Exploration & Production Inc., and B.P. America Production Co. alleging gross negligence under general maritime law.  Piacun claimed that the company negligently exposed him to hazardous and cancer-causing compounds.

Piacun was hired as a vessel captain in April 20, 2010, in response to the BP oil spill.  While he was employed from June 2010 to December 2010, Piacun claims BP negligently exposed him to dermal and airborne chemical compounds that are generally accepted to be toxic, volatile, and carcinogenic.  The suit states that, as a result of this exposure, Piacun “developed psychological, dermal, respiratory, and cardiopulmonary complications.”