A Texas oilfield worker who suffered a horrific industrial injury while working on a Pennsylvania oil derrick has agreed to accept a total settlement of $44 million from the five companies named in his negligence lawsuit. The man was struck in the head by a light fixture that was poorly fixed to an oil derrick: the light fell more than 100 feet, leaving him a quadriplegic.
James Burgess’ industrial injury has changed his and his wife Kay’s life. The couple live in rural Texas, and a big part of the argument in their litigation revolved around the loss of consortium and hardship suffered by Mrs. Burgess, who has to travel to a hospital 90 miles away from her home in order to see her husband. She has made the trip every day for the last six years.
Mediation Leads to Settlement in Industrial Injury
There were five companies named as responsible for the industrial plant injury that left Mr. Burgess with a neck fracture that compressed his spinal cord. They were Patterson Drilling Services, which owned and operated the drill rig; Dialight, which designed and marketed the 4-foot LED light which struck him; National Oilwell Varco, which designed and manufactured various components of the rig; Clark Electrical Contractors, which installed the light; and Cabot Petroleum North Sea Ltd., which owned the mineral rights of the oil being drilled.
The suit indicated that the industrial injury was a result of numerous negligent and reckless actions. The Burgess’ attorneys pointed out that the light lacked anchors for proper attachment to safety cables, and therefore was not made for use on drill rigs, yet it was still marketed to the oil and gas industry for that use; they also indicated that the electrical contractors installed the lighting despite knowing they were not designed for the purpose they were being employed for and that the drill rig manufacturer should have posted warning instructions regarding the proper way for light fixtures to be attached to their equipment.
Perhaps most harmful to the argument of the companies accused of liability was the fact that inspection reports of the drill rig falsified information indicating that safety cables had been installed, though that action was never taken.