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Jury Awards $2.4 Million Houston Verdict for Injured Refinery Worker

Texas Business reports:  A Houston jury awarded a verdict of more than $2.4 million to a worker who suffered severe burns while working at ExxonMobil's refinery in Baytown.

Attorneys Kurt Arnold and Paul Skrabanek of Arnold & Itkin represented James Stewart in the jury trial heard in Judge Larry Weiman's 80th District Court in Houston.

Stewart suffered burns on more than 25 percent of his body on June 18, 2008, as a result of a flash fire from hot oil that poured out of a pipe bleeder valve and ignited. Stewart was working on an elevated platform and could not get to the ground because the exit was blocked by the fire.

At trial, Stewart's attorneys successfully argued that the pipe system designed by GDS Engineers Inc. and SNC-Lavalin Engineers & Constructors Inc. was faulty, and that the oil should have been pumped in a closed pipe since it was above its autoignition temperature and represented a fire hazard. Evidence also showed that the platform on which Stewart was working violated safety regulations by not incorporating two paths to enter and exit the platform.

“Stewart is a dedicated, hard worker who was severely hurt just trying to do his job,” Arnold said. “GDS Engineers and SNC-Lavalin could have prevented this terrible accident by taking basic steps to design the platform and equipment to account for these obvious hazards.”

GDS Engineers and SNC-Lavalin insisted on a trial, and jurors awarded a total of $2,434,000 after finding that the companies' negligence was the cause of Stewart's injuries. The total award includes $1.84 million for pain and mental anguish, $380,000 for physical impairment and disfigurement, $146,000 in medical expenses and $68,000 in lost wages.

The case style is James Stewart v. GDS Engineers, Inc. et al., No. 2009-24285.