Texas Industrial Pipeline Explosion Lawsuit Results in $20M Verdict

A Texas jury has awarded $20 million to the family of one man who was killed and two men who were severely injured by a natural gas pipeline explosion while performing demolition work. 

The industrial accident lawsuit was filed by Genaro Castillo and Luis Moreno, and the family of Meliton Lerma, who were caught in a natural gas explosion at a Hilcorp Energy gas plant outside of Vanderbilt in 2008.

The pipeline explosion occurred when the men, employed by A&R Demolition to work on an abandoned part of the facility, hit a pocket of natural volatile hydrocarbons while using a cutting torch. The men worked for RCS Demolition, which was subcontracted the job by A&R.

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Lerma died after receiving burns to 50% of his body. Moreno received second- and third-degree burns over nearly 60% of his body, and Castillo had burns covering 10% of his body.

The plaintiffs alleged that they were not properly warned of the risk of fire and explosion, and during discovery, Hilcorp officials said that the pipes in that part of the facility were never properly vented or purged before the demolition project. However, A&R and Hilcorp claimed that they told the plaintiffs’ employer, RCS, that there was to be no fire used on the job.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs pointed out that A&R’s own employees also used cutting torches on the job.

The Harris County jury found both A&R and Hilcorp negligent and awarded the men and their families $19.9 million. However the jury assigned a small amount of the liability to RCS and the plaintiffs themselves.


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