Jury Awards $4.1M for Work Injury at Gas Drilling Rig Accident

An oil rig worker has been awarded $4.1 million by a Colorado jury in a work injury lawsuit brought over an accident where a pipe slammed into the worker, causing a severe back and spine injury. 

Von Phathong brought the case against Tesco Corporation and EnCana Corporation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, after being nearly crushed in a gas drilling rig accident on December 13, 2005.

According to the complaint, the accident occurred when a supervisor knowingly attempted to use the wrong part to fit two pipes together. At the time of the incident, Phathong was working on the Colorado derrick for EnCana Corporation.

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The lawsuit alleged that a Tesco employee used the wrong crossover sub to fit two different sized pipes together, knowing he was using the wrong part. When the workers were told to use a top-drive to force the ill-fitting pipe threads together, Phathong was ordered to use large tongs to help secure the pipes. The top drive made the unsecured drill pipe turn and swing back, which smashed Phathong between the drill pipe and tongs and the derrick leg.

The accident could have been avoided if the workers had been told to connect a safety line to the pipe or somehow secure the bottom of the pipe, according to allegations raised at trial.

The federal jury decided Tesco was 90% responsible for Phathong’s injuries and EnCana was 10% responsible, awarding more than $4.1 million in damages, including a punitive damage award of $1.5 million.

Evidence presented at trial detailed the poor safety practices put in place by Tesco at the drilling site, describing the culture as one of “threats and intimidation,” according to a press release issued by Phathong’s attorneys. Testimony described Tesco’s safety as among the worst ever seen by workers on the rig, as well as by a drilling expert offered by Phathong.


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