Family of Texas oilfield worker killed in explosion awarded $29 million damages
05 February 2015
The family of an oilfield services worker killed on the job by an explosion of an industrial battery was awarded $29 million by a Houston jury. The 38-year old worker died after a lithium thionyl chloride battery exploded at a Professional Directional Enterprises, Inc. facility in Conroe, Texas in January 2011.
His family alleged that the battery was improperly heated to extend its life for use in an oilfield downhole-drilling tool and was known to be defective.
The lawsuit claims included gross negligence and allegations of missing evidence from the explosion. A separate federal investigation led to multiple "serious" and other citations against PDE for violating federal safety regulations.
After a day of deliberations, the Harris County state court jury awarded $4 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages on February 3.
Representing the family of the deceased, Tony Buzbee of the Buzbee Law Firm said: "This verdict should send a message to smaller oil and gas operators that the practice of reheating oilfield tool batteries must stop. This death … was absolutely preventable."
Professional Directional Enterprises, Inc., with offices in Wyoming, Virginia, Louisiana, and Texas, was found 80% liable and another defendant that settled before closing arguments in the trial was found 20% liable.