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The Advocate : Injured contract workers file suit against Williams Olefins

June 25, 2013, 11:13 pm

By Bret H. McCormick

River Parishes bureau


Three contract workers injured in the June 13 explosion at the Williams Olefins plant in Geismar have filed suit against the company.

Rigoberto Rio, Manuel Escobedo Sr. and Manuel Escobedo Jr., employees of Chicago Bridge and Iron Co. who were working as independent contractors at Williams Olefins, filed suit against the company late Friday afternoon.

The three men were working as pipefitters and suffered severe injuries in the blast, according to the suit, which was filed in the 23rd Judicial District Court in Ascension Parish.

The lawsuit alleges Williams Olefins’ failure “to properly and completely clear and maintain the pipeline … resulted in a catastrophic explosion,” killing two people and injuring more than 100 others.

Lawsuits against the company have started to mount since the first suit was filed the day after the explosion by a contractor working at the nearby BASF facility.

Several class-action lawsuits featuring plaintiffs working in neighboring plants also have been filed, attorneys said, as well as a suit filed Friday afternoon on behalf of two truck drivers making deliveries to the plant at the time of the explosion.

Brent Coon, a Houston-based attorney who handles occupational and environmental injury cases and is representing Rio and the Escebedos, said he expects the Williams Olefins explosion to spawn a number of lawsuits.

“This will probably be a well-discovered case because you have so much at stake,” he said.

Coon said the Williams Olefins plant “had a long history of a lot of leaks” stemming from pipes and valves becoming rusty and not being kept up properly.

Tom Droege, a Williams spokesman, has said previously that the company is cooperating with investigators but does not comment on pending litigation. Attempts to reach Droege on Monday were unsuccessful.

Rio and the Escobedos’ lawsuit alleges the company did not provide them with safety, emergency or escape procedures, and says further that they were exposed to toxic materials while trapped on the premises following the explosion.

The lawsuit claims Williams Olefins was negligent for failing to maintain and repair gas lines, failing to adopt proper warning procedures and failing to provide a safe workplace.

The suit seeks compensation for past and future medical expenses, back pay and future earnings, physical impairment and damages for lost earning capacity.

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