Hot Oil Heater Explosion Lawsuit Results in $82M Verdict

A wrongful death lawsuit against two Texas energy companies has resulted in an $82.5 million award for the family of a man killed in 2007 when a hot oil heater exploded. 

The negligence lawsuit was filed by the family of Joshua Wade Petrie, who was 27 years old when he was killed by a natural gas explosion at a Cleburne, Texas processing plant. The defendants in the lawsuit were Quicksilver Resources Inc. and Exterran Energy Solutions, which was known as Hanover Compression LP at the time of the fatal accident.

Petrie died as a result of injuries he suffered when a hot oil heater at a Quicksilver plant exploded. According to the complaint, the heater did not meet industry safety standards.

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During the trial Quicksilver, which purchased the plant from Hanover in 2005 and had the heater relocated from Oklahoma to Texas, said that it was Hanover’s responsibility to ensure that the heater was up to standards. Quicksilver attorneys also argued that providing a safe heater was part of Hanover’s agreement with Quicksilver, according to a story in Mineral Wells Index.

The jury in the 152nd District Court in Harris County found both companies negligent, but assigned 90% of the responsibility to Hanover. The verdict includes a $10 million compensatory award to Petrie’s wife, Candee, $15 million to his surviving children, ages 2, 5, and 7, and $2.5 million to his father, Mark.

In addition to the compensatory damages, the jury hit Hanover with $25 million in punitive damages, finding that the company was grossly negligent in causing Petrie’s death. Hanover attorneys tried to place some of the blame on Petrie during the trial, but the jury rejected this assertion and no blame for the incident was placed on Petrie.


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