An appeals court dismissed an energy company's argument that the circumstances surrounding the death of a subcontractor were not "tragic" enough to support a $ 2 million dividend to his widow.
In Mays v. Chevron Pipe Line Co., the On Monday, the 5th Court of Appeals unanimously confirmed a district court's decision to uphold a jury's finding that the subsidiary Chevron Corp was largely responsible for an explosion that killed workers on a natural gas platform.
James Mays worked for Furmanite American Inc., a subcontractor of the Houston-based Chevron Pipe Line. On September 13, 2014, he was killed while operating a valve on the platform.
Mr. May & # 39 ;s widow sued Chevron Pipe Line, claiming that the company failed to keep the valves that Mr. Mays worked with. The suit also claimed that the company incorrectly informed him about the valve's manufacturer, which led to him inadvertently breaking the pipeline's pressure barrier and triggering the explosion that killed him.
Chevron claimed immunity under Louisiana workers' compensation system since Mr. Mays worked in Louisiana waters.
Mr. Mays & # 39; s widow claimed that if the accident was covered by the federal law for Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation, that Chevron Pipe Line was not entitled to the exclusive fine under the Louisiana Workers Compensation Act.
A jury found that Mr. May's case fell under federal law because he worked on the outer continental shelf and the state's immunity did not apply. The jury found the Chevron Pipe Line 70% at fault for Mr. May's death and awarded his widow $ 2 million. The company appealed to a district court to rule as a matter of law, which was denied.
On appeal, Chevron Pipe Line claimed that the link between its business and Mr. May's death was indirect and that the district court abused its discretion by failing to reduce the $ 2 million award to Mr. May's widow and claim that the facts were not "particularly tragic" and supported a maximum of a $ 700,000 award.
The court found that the jury heard sufficient evidence to determine that there was a significant causal link between Mr. May's death and the company's operations. The court also found that the district court did not use its space for discretion by refusing to reduce the jury.
Although the Chevron Pipe Line claimed that Mr. Mays died immediately and the record showed no evidence that his wife suffered "extraordinary" mental anxiety, the appellate court disagreed, noting that Mrs. Mays could not see her husband's body after the accident "because it was so poorly mixed" and that he could not be buried in the wooden coffin. chosen before his death due to the strong odor from spending time floating in gas-melt water.