A Louisiana jury has returned a $13.6 million award against Williams Cos. Inc. in a lawsuit brought by four contractors who were injured in the deadly June 2013 explosion at a petrochemical production plant owned by the midstream giant. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury determined that Williams’ negligence led to the explosion at its ethylene production plant in Geismar, La., that killed two people and injured more than 100. The jurors assigned 95 percent of the fault to Williams, 3 percent to Williams Olefins LLC, the listed owner of the plant, and 2 percent to officials at the plant. The jury awarded Plaintiffs Shawn Thomas $9.4 million in damages, Christopher Devall $3.6 million, Eduardo Elizondo $360,000 and Michael Dantone $205,000.
The jury found that Williams Olefins LLC was merely a shell company and that the parent company had full control over the plant. The jury found that the four contractors were actually employees of Williams Cos., and held Williams fully accountable for the explosion. Williams said in a statement that it will appeal the verdict.
Williams is facing several additional suits arising from the explosion at the Geismar plant. The company said the explosion was caused by the ignition of a vapor cloud from an equipment rupture. This case was the first of the suits to go to trial. This makes the jury’s verdict most significant. There are trials set for November, January 2017 and April 2017.
In December 2013, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) charged Williams Olefins with six process safety management violations and fined the company $99,000.
The case is Paul Thompson et al. v. Williams Cos. Inc. et al. in the Eighteenth Judicial District Court of Iberville Parish, La.
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