PLAINTIFF RESOLVES HIGH PROFILE LAWSUIT FOR OVER 17 MILLION FOR CATASTROPHIC INJURIES TO WELDING CONTRACTOR INVOLVED IN NEGLIGENT EXPLOSION AT INDUSTRIAL PLANT
December 15, 2018
Plaintiff, Adam Morales, arrived at an industrial plant, owned and operated by Defendant, to perform routine welding on an industrial storage tank of cutback asphalt being brought back into service for Defendant. During the welding process, Plaintiff made a circular cut into the storage tank which triggered a steam explosion. As a result, the top of the storage tank was blown open throwing Plaintiff 30 feet to the ground below causing catastrophic injuries and lifetime care needs.
Defendant, as testified to OSHA, contended that Plaintiff was completely at fault for the Incident through directing Defendant’s employees to increase steam into the storage tank during his welding operations. Plaintiff denied making such instructions. OSHA did not conclude fault for the incident on Defendant, or Plaintiff, due to the divergence of testimony.
Through aggressive litigation by counsel, and technical expert testimony, Plaintiff was able to establish that Defendant not only was ultimately responsible for the steam explosion but also was able to support Plaintiffs version of the events. Plaintiff was able to determine that Defendant left combustible product in the subject storage tank 30 years prior that was a causative factor of the steam explosion. Further, and importantly, Plaintiff was able to discover a former manager who was present on the date of the Incident who testified, over his counsel’s instructions, that Defendant was fully aware that a combustible product was in the storage tank and it was their duty to clean the tank such that steam was unnecessary in the first instance. Through this, Plaintiff was made financially whole for his life care needs, and other needs, for his life expectancy.
COMPLETE TITLE OF PLAINTIFFS:
COMPLETE TITLE OF DEFENDANT:
Doe Industrial Plant
Christopher R. Aitken
AITKEN ✦AITKEN ✦COHN
PLAINTIFF’S CONTENTIONS AS TO LIABILITY:
Plaintiff contended that Defendant was fully responsible for the steam explosion resulting in his catastrophic injuries. Plaintiff contended that the storage tank that he was welding was not cleaned, per industry standards, of combustible product prior to welding. Plaintiff contended that while he signed off on a “hot work permit”, it was the owner who was responsible for the tank cleaning. Plaintiff contended he did not know about the combustible product in the subject tank and had properly welded on various other tanks by Defendant prior that did not have such product. Plaintiff contended it was the welding flame, combined with the combustible product, which caused the subject explosion.
Plaintiff also contended that it was improper, and unnecessary, to inert steam while he was performing work on the subject tank. Plaintiff contended, contrary to Defendant’s assertions, that he was not involved in directing the steam to be increased which Defendant claimed ultimately caused his injuries. Plaintiff contended it was Defendants responsibility, and not his, to inspect the interior of the subject tank prior to hot work being performed. Plaintiff contended that Defendant did not do so which led to the subject explosion.
Plaintiff contended that Defendant inserted steam for over an hour prior to his work, when only 5-10 minutes of steam insertion was necessary. The excess steam, plaintiff contended, caused over pressurization of the tank. Plaintiff contended that the tank system was defective in that it not equipped with steam traps and a functional “pressure relief valve” that would have detected the over pressurization. Plaintiff contended that Defendant’s employees were not properly trained in steam operations and that the employees did not have any way to monitor the steam pressure that was added leading to the subject explosion.
Plaintiff was able to determine that Defendant left combustible product in the subject storage tank 30 years prior that was a causative factor of the steam explosion. Further, and importantly, Plaintiff was able to discover a former manager who was present on the date of the Incident who testified, over his counsel’s instructions, that Defendant was fully aware that a combustible product was in the storage tank and it was their duty to clean the tank such that steam was unnecessary in the first instance.
DEFENDANT’S CONTENTIONS AS TO LIABILITY:
Defendant contended that Plaintiff was fully responsible for his own injuries. Defendant contended that Plaintiff directed Defendants employee to increase the steam which led to the over pressurization, and explosion, of the subject tank. Defendant contended that Plaintiff signed off on his own hot work permit representing that he had inspected the tank prior to his own welding. Defendant contended that he was thus responsible for his own injuries by not finding any deficiencies with the tank prior to welding.
Defendant also contended that Plaintiff should have been wearing a harness at the time of the incident which would have prevented the injuries suffered. Defendant contended that
Plaintiff was an experience welding foreman and had the requisite experience to do proper safety checks prior to the incident. Defendant contended that if he has done the proper checks the incident, and injuries, would have been avoided in its entirety. Defendants disputed that the subject tank had any product defects. Defendant argued that steam was properly used in the subject tank and disputed the claim that they were responsible for its over pressurization.
September 16th, 2015
DATE OF VERDICT/SETTLEMENT:
December 15, 2018
TYPE OF CASE:
AMOUNT OF SETTLEMENT:
DATE/TIME OF INCIDENT:
May 5th, 2015, approximately 8a.m.
Clement Mesavage, tank storage and bulk transfer operations, Midlothian, CA; Joseph Romig, fires, explosions, and accident reconstruction, Lafayette, CO; Cyrus Razmara, asphalt, Burbank, CA; Brad Avrit, safety and construction engineering, Marina Del Rey, CA
Spinal Cord Injury. Blunt force trauma with multiple impacts causing multiple injuries, fractures, and contusions resulting in multiple surgeries: Head/Face, Chest, Left Arm, Right Wrist, Abdomen, Pelvis, Lumbar Spine, Left Leg, Right Ankle.
Plaintiff contended $2,116,112,40 in past paid medical expenses and future life care needs costs to exceed an additional $6,000,000. Wage loss in the amount of $1,900,000.
Defendants disputed the nature, and extent, of Plaintiffs Life Care Needs. Defendant contended that the life care plan, and wage loss, was approximately $4,500,000 to $5,000,000.
The matter was resolved with the assistance of mediator Robert Kaplan of Judicate West.
AITKEN ✦AITKEN ✦COHN
3 MacArthur Place, Suite 800
Santa Ana, CA 92707