DuPont Co. has reached a settlement with one of the families of four workers who were killed after a chemical release at the company’s La Porte, Texas, plant in November. The company has agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to resolve negligence claims brought by Jasmine Rae Wise, the daughter of deceased DuPont worker Chrystle Rae Wise. DuPont also agreed to institute a yearly moment of silence for the next decade to remember the workers killed after a toxic chemical leak.
The workers died after a leak of methyl mercaptan, a product used to add smell to natural gas for safety and used in insecticides and fungicides. The families said a faulty valve at the plant released the chemical into the air. Judge Brent Gamble consolidated the actions for discovery purposes in September. The Wise lawsuit, filed in November 2014, alleged that DuPont failed to inspect, repair and maintain “faulty and defective equipment” and said its review of state records show the plant was cited at least two dozen times by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, including for the failure to perform routine safety inspections.
Under the settlement, DuPont will also make a contribution to a local animal protection group. Brent Coon, one of the lawyers representing Ms. Wise, said that he commends DuPont for crafting an “out-of-the-box” settlement that pays tribute to the things that mattered most to Chrystle Wise. He added, “This helps with closure for the family because they know they’re establishing some lasting legacy.”
In May, the U.S. Department of Labor cited DuPont for 11 safety violations related to the accident, saying the workers wouldn’t have died if the company had taken steps to protect them. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposed a $99,000 fine for citations including one repeat violation, nine serious violations and one “other than serious” violation. After the preliminary investigation, the agency found hazards that prompted further inquiry, leading to the July issuance of an additional $273,000 in penalties for three willful, one repeat and four serious violations at the La Porte plant. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is also conducting an investigation into the incident and released an interim report on Sept. 30, making recommendations to correct flawed safety procedures, design issues and insufficient planning.
Ms. Wise is represented by Brent Coon, Sidney F. Robert and Robert A. Schwartz of Brent Coon & Associates, a firm headquartered in Beaumont, Texas.
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