HOUSTON, Sept. 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- A Louisiana jury hit Tulsa-based Williams Companies, Inc. with a $13.6 million verdict in the bellwether trial for workers injured in the 2013 Geismar plant explosion that killed 2 and injured 114. The jury assigned 95% of the responsibility for the explosion to Williams Companies, Inc. and only 3% to the local holding company, Williams Olefins, LLC. Kurt Arnold of Houston-based law firm Arnold & Itkin represented the four plaintiffs in a trial that lasted three weeks.
Kurt Arnold says, "For weeks, Williams' lawyers were trying to avoid responsibility for the deadly explosion by shifting blame to their local holding company, Williams Olefins. It's a corporate shell game, and I am glad that the jury saw right through it."
The jury also found that Williams Companies had known there was a "substantial certainty" of a deadly explosion at the Geismar company for years. At issue was a propane reboiler that had been isolated by closing the pressure release valve. On the morning of June 13, pressure built up and ruptured the reboiler and resulted in a massive explosion. Trial testimony revealed that Williams Companies employees had documented the danger dozens of times since 2006, yet never addressed the problem. During trial, Arnold referred to the plant as a "ticking time-bomb." Even plant manager Larry Bayer testified that the reboiler was "an accident waiting to happen."
"Substantial certainty is worse than negligence," Kurt Arnold says. "Negligence is when you should have known better. We showed that Williams employees did know better and deliberately chose not to fix the problem."
This was just the first case to go to trial in a series of suits filed against Williams Companies in relation to the 2013 blast. Based on this first verdict, Williams may be facing a substantial liability as more than 100 other plaintiffs await their day in court. This liability strikes Williams Companies at a tumultuous time -- after a failed merger and turmoil on the board.
Arnold says that he hopes the verdict sends a message to Williams Companies management that they have to rethink how they manage safety. Williams Companies operates thousands of miles of natural gas pipeline and countless facilities in several states. Kurt says, "Williams Companies takes profits and resources from communities all over the country and then tries to limit its liability when it kills and injures people. It's not right."
The Geismar plant explosion was one in a string of explosions and fires at Williams Companies facilities over the last few years, including a 2013 explosion in Branchburg, New Jersey; a 2014 explosion near Plymouth, Washington; and a 2015 explosion in Gibson, Louisiana that killed three.
The next case is set for trial on November 2, 2016.
To learn more about Arnold & Itkin LLP, visit them online today at www.arnolditkin.com.
SOURCE Arnold & Itkin LLP