A Texas jury returned a $281 million judgment last month against Heckman Water Resourses, a subsidiary of Nuverra Environmental Solutions Inc. The jury found a drive shaft had broken off a poorly maintained truck owned by the oil field service company, causing a man’s death. The Dimmit County jury awarded $181 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages to the family of Carlos Aguilar, who was killed when he was hit by a drive shaft that had snapped off a tractor-trailer owned by Heckmann Water Resources. The big rig was traveling down a road near the Eagle Ford Shale at the time of the incident.
Nuverra, an environmental solutions company that until last May was known as Heckmann Corp., bills itself as one of the largest companies dedicated to the removal, treatment and disposal of oil field development byproducts on behalf of companies operating in major shale plays throughout the U.S. Heckmann Water Resources operates fleet, real property and disposal wells in the Eagle Ford, Barnett, Permian, Mississippian Lime, Haynesville and Marcellus/Utica shale basins.
The Aguilar family filed a wrongful death suit against Heckmann Water Resources and Ruben Osorio Hernandez, the man driving the truck, when the May 2012 accident occurred. It was alleged that the semi was not properly maintained, which led to the drive shaft failure. When the drive shaft fell out from underneath Heckman Water Resources’ truck as it was being driven down a highway in Dimmitt County, the part careened through the windshield of the pickup truck Aguilar was riding in, killing him.
Heckmann Water Resources and Hernandez were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. But the jury in the civil case found that the company was guilty of negligent conduct. Jurors determined that Hernandez was not at fault for the accident. The Aguilar family is represented by Ronald Rodriguez, a lawyer from Laredo, Texas. He has done a very good job in this case.
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