Texas Jury Awards $9 Million To Injured Oil Worker After Finding Drilling Site Operator Grossly Negligent In Hand-Crushing Incident
On Sept. 13, 2011, plaintiff Michael Gilmore was working for defendant Accurate Valve Services at an oil drilling site operated and/or maintained by defendants Unit Corporation, Unit Drilling Company, Unit Texas Drilling, LLC, and Blackbrush Oil & Gas, LP. Accurate Valve had been contracted by the other defendants to replace seals on the door of the blow out preventer at the site. In order to gain access to the blow out preventer, plaintiff was told to stand on a wooden pallet that was raised into the air with a forklift. When the forklift driver reversed, he severed a cable wire laid across the ground that was used to support an industrial-sized metal pulley. The pulley fell and landed directly on plaintiff’s right hand, crushing it. Plaintiff’s hand required emergency surgical intervention. Plaintiff claimed that his permanent hand injury led to complex regional pain syndrome.
Plaintiff filed a negligence action against defendants in the County Court of Nueces County, TX, alleging that defendants and their agents failed to give sufficient warnings and/or instructions; failed to adequately inspect the area around the forklift where the cable was laid; failed to safely secure the cable; failed to properly operate the forklift; failed to furnish a safe place to work; failed keep a proper lookout; and failed to warn of the danger. Plaintiff also asserted a claim of gross negligence and sought damages for his permanent injury, past and future loss of earning capacity, past and future medical expenses, and past and future physical pain and emotional anguish, as well as exemplary damages.
The claims against the Unit Drilling defendants proceeded to a three-week jury trial. The jury found Unit Drilling 74% negligent, Michael Gilmore 5% negligent, and Accurate Valve 21% negligent. The jury awarded $35,000 for past physical pain and mental anguish; $160,000 for past loss of earning capacity; $450,000 for future loss of earning capacity; $100,000 for past disfigurement; $0 for future disfigurement; $30,000 for past physical impairment; $0 for future physical impairment; $250,000 for past medical expenses; and $0 for future medical expenses. The jury also found gross negligence on the part of Unit Drilling and awarded an additional $8,000,000 in exemplary damages for a total award of $9,025,000. At trial, the defense had asked the jury to award plaintiff $50,000. Plaintiff requested between $4 million and $6 million.
Plaintiff was represented by Thomas J. Henry and Richard Hunnicutt, III, of Thomas J. Henry Injury Attorneys. See Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Petition attached below.
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