HOUSTON, Feb. 4, 2015 LawFuel.com — The family of an oilfield services worker killed on the job by an explosion of an industrial battery was awarded $29 million by a Houston jury, The Buzbee Law Firm and The Law Office of Matthew J. Mussalli, PC announced today.
Garland “Rickie” Kelley, 38, died after a lithium thionyl chloride battery exploded at a Professional Directional Enterprises, Inc. facility in Conroe, Texas in January 2011. His family alleged that the battery was improperly heated to extend its life for use in an oilfield downhole-drilling tool and was known to be defective.
The lawsuit claims included gross negligence and allegations of missing evidence from the explosion. A separate federal investigation led to multiple “serious” and other citations against Mr. Kelley’s employer for violating federal safety regulations.
After a day of deliberations, the Harris County state court jury awarded $4 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages late Tuesday.
The family is represented by attorneys Tony Buzbee of The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston, and Matthew J. Mussalli, of the Law Office of Matthew J. Mussalli, PC, of The Woodlands, Texas.
Tony Buzbee, of The Buzbee Law Firm, said, “This verdict should send a message to smaller oil and gas operators that the practice of reheating oilfield tool batteries must stop. The death of Rickie Kelley was absolutely preventable.”
Matthew J. Mussalli, of The Law Office of Matthew J. Mussalli PC, said, “This verdict represents another step the Kelley family has taken to rebuild their lives and move forward after the loss of their husband and father.”
Defendant Professional Directional Enterprises, Inc., with offices in Wyoming, Virginia, Louisiana, and Texas, was found 80 percent liable and another defendant that settled before closing arguments in the trial was found 20 percent liable.
The case is “Tonya Kelley, et al., v. Electrochem Solutions, Inc., et al,” Cause No. 2012-75148 in the 113th District Court of Harris County, Texas.