Jury Awards Explosion Victimís Widow $18.9M

Jury Awards Explosion Victimís Widow $18.9M

A jury has awarded $18.9 million the widow of a man who died from burn injuries after an industrial accident caused a massive fire.

The widow Gordon Rutherford, Amy, filed the lawsuit claiming that TXI directed a crew of four welders including her husband to work near the environmental scrubber, which contained “extremely hazardous and flammable materials.”

The Accident

Rutherford, 34, of Maxahachie, Texas, was working at the TXI plant when 5.5 tons of highly combustible plastics caught fire. Soon after the explosion, a construction crane stopped working and Rutherford was left suspended 90 feet above the ground. There, he was engulfed by flames. The three other welders were also burned.

The Lawsuit

According to the lawsuit, TXI acted negligently and recklessly by failing to warn Rutherford and the other workers of the dangers posed by the materials in the area.

“TXI ignored basic safety principles by sending this team into a highly dangerous situation without adequate warning and without properly maintained equipment and fire extinguishing devices that might have saved Gordon Rutherford’s life,” said Rutherford’s attorney Michael Heygood.

“This trial was about determining how seriously companies should take plant safety. After hearing evidence for almost four weeks, the jury rejected the notion that industrial plants can maintain a blind eye to the dangers their workers face,” he added.

According to the suit, TXI knew about the fire threat the plastic posed because 18 months earlier, a similar accident occurred when the plastic melted and overheated.

Plastic Representative Testifies

A plastic manufacturer representative testified that he had advised that TXI replace the plastic in the scrubber with stainless steel for multiple reasons, including the danger of overheating. He further testified that TXI rejected his recommendation because of the extra costs the process involved.

“As a result of this verdict, industrial plants hopefully will understand the need to ensure they hire experienced safety professionals to overlook the operations of their facilities. Mrs. Rutherford hopes this verdict will save other lives,” said Robert Lee, another member of Amy Rutherford’s counsel.

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