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Southeast Texas' Legal Journal

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    GALVESTON – A Texas City man facing legal action after his dog allegedly attacked a young boy delivered a pro se answer, according to recent court records.

    In the seven-page handwritten response filed Sept. 13, Tim Christian insists the subject event is an accident and the canine is not dangerous.boxer-dog

    Texas City local Mandy Johnson sued Christian last month, stating the attack occurred when her son was playing with Christian’s daughter in the defendant’s front yard on Oct. 25, 2011.

    Johnson claims the dog was let out of his owner’s residence and ran straight toward the young boy, primarily attacking his groin area.

    She adds it jumped up on the child and “bit his face and mouth, ripping out teeth.”

    Meanwhile, Christian contends that Johnson’s son teased the canine and was asked to stop as it “was scared.”

    According to his rebuttal, the boy “would not let us take him to the hospital” after the incident.

    Christian further explains that he contacted the plaintiff and offered his assistance “with medical bills or otherwise.”

    Johnson was never heard from again until “we were informed by her lawyer not even a week later that we were going to be sued,” the answer says.

    Christian asserts the dog poses no problem to his children or even his mailman.

    Cause No. 70,465


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    GALVESTON – The first week of the “test” trial into the 2010 BP toxic release is in the books.

    With attorney Tony G. Buzbee of The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston serving as their lead counsel, many Galveston County residents have brought lawsuits against BP for the event in question at what used to be its Texas City facility.

    Buzbee

    Buzbee

    The plaintiffs assert they were exposed “to significant amounts of toxic and noxious chemicals as well as benzene” for 40 days after a hydrogen compressor in the refinery’s ultracracker unit went offline on April 6, 2010.

    BP sold the property to Marathon Petroleum Corp. for $2.4 billion earlier this year.

    Said trial, presided by Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox, primarily focuses on four selected claimants’ allegations from which the outcome will set the precedent for how the other cases would proceed.

    A jury of was seated in a Galveston County courtroom Sept. 11, and Buzbee and BP’s legal team presented opening arguments.

    Buzbee accused BP of prioritizing profits while his counterparts on the defense insist the petrochemical company had nothing to do with the release of at least 540,000 pounds of chemical and compounds, including 17,000 pounds of benzene, into the environment.BP-Texas-City-Refinery

    The jury was shown video depositions from a few employees answering questions about the purported constant failure of the 100 J compressor, a component of the aforementioned ultracracker.

    It heard testimony from Michael Sawyer, a process safety engineer, and Kevin Dixon, a Texas City firefighter.

    Sawyer discussed excessive air emissions and mechanical integrity in relation to the release as well as other events at the refinery going back to April 2005.

    Dixon recounted responding to an odor complaint call on April 18, 2010, at a residence some 18 blocks from the refinery and attributing the incident to a “possible plant release.”

    The trial is expected to last approximately six weeks.

    The Galveston County District Clerk’s Office previously reported that with nearly 50,000 complainants, the emission litigation exceeded the number of cases filed in response to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association’s supposed mishandling of Hurricane Ike claims in the county.

    Each suit seeks at least $200,000 in damages.


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    GALVESTON – A woman who is among the many Galveston County residents claiming to have been affected by a 2010 toxic event at the now-former BP Texas City refinery took the stand Sept. 16.

    For nearly half an hour the morning of the fourth day into what is billed as a “test” trial, Mary Brooks shared her experiences during the alleged six-week emission which began on April 6, 2010, with jurors, asserting a “peculiar, sweet” smell got into her chest.BP-sign

    Brooks, who runs a day care from home and was recently widowed, told the Galveston County 56th District Court that the purported smell was strong in certain parts of Texas City.

    She said the odor prompted the children under her care to refuse to play outdoors.

    Brooks’s residence and day care facility are reportedly nine blocks from the refinery, which BP sold to Marathon Petroleum Corp. to the tune of $2.4 billion last February.

    Buzbee

    Buzbee

    Toward the end of her testimony, Brooks and defense attorney Kenneth Tekell of Tekell, Book, Allen & Morris LLP in Houston, a member of the petrochemical company’s legal team, had a small exchange over what she said in a deposition.

    More than more than 50,000 people sued over the emissions for at least $200,000 in damages, each original petition stating the hydrogen compressor in the refinery’s ultracracker unit went offline and subsequently caused a chemical leak.

    It took six weeks to stop the leak, after about 540,000 pounds of chemicals and compounds — including at least 17,000 pounds of benzene — had been released into the facility and neighboring area, according to the suit.

    Brooks’s attorney and plaintiffs’ lead counsel, Tony G. Buzbee of The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston, accused BP of prioritizing profits while his counterparts on the defense insisted the petrochemical company had nothing to do with the release.

    Officials estimate the trial to last approximately six weeks.

    Presiding judge Lonnie Cox said the trial’s outcome will set the precedent for how the other cases would proceed.


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    GALVESTON – Matagorda County resident Robin Baca claims she purchased a defective pair of sandals which caused her to fall, recent court documents say.

    Baca sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Elan-Polo Inc. in Matagorda County District Court on Aug. 14.walmart

    The lawsuit was removed to the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas on Sept. 16.

    The plaintiff bought two pairs of Ladies Fashion Sandals, which were manufactured by Elan-Polo, at a Wal-Mart in Bay City.

    She was walking in her brand new footwear when they broke and she fell, suffering “severe” bodily injuries, according to the suit.

    Wal-Mart is blamed for selling “sub-standard” shoes and failing to ensure their safety, while Elan-Polo is faulted for not controlling the manufacturing process.

    Consequently, the claimant is suing for physical pain and impairment, disfigurement, mental and emotional anguish, and lost earnings.

    She seeks more than $1 million in damages.

    Attorney Lynn C. Grebe of Bay City is representing Baca.

    Case No. 3:13-CV-333


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    GALVESTON – Alleging a fellow tenant at her Dickinson apartment complex attacked her, Gail Jacquet seeks damages.

    A lawsuit filed Sept. 16 in Galveston County District Court claims that Community Retirement Center of Galveston County LP knew the Jacquet’s alleged assailant, Laurie Carter, presented “an extreme danger” to the public and the residents of Oak Tree Village Apartments, but nonetheless failed to prevent the June 28 event in question.knife_in_hand

    Jacquet says she was in the parking lot of the defendant’s premises when Carter, who is not a defendant in the case, stabbed her several times with a knife, inflicting serious, permanent and disabling injuries.

    A Galveston County Grand Jury indicted Carter, and the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office filed felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon against her.

    The suit claims Carter was allegedly involved in similar incidents prior to the attack against Jacquet. As a result of each episode, the Galveston County Sheriff’s Department had to intervene, according to the original petition.

    Jacquet insists the defendant allowed Carter to stay on the property afterwards and neglected to provide an adequate security force.

    She seeks $150,000 in damages and is represented by attorney Mark A. Salvato of Houston.

    Galveston County 212th District Court Judge Susan Criss is presiding over the litigation.

    Case No. 13-CV-1192


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    HOUSTON – A Fort Bend County woman’s visit to a Wal-Mart in Wharton resulted in a slip-and-fall, recent court documents say.

    Beasley resident Monica Montalbo sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Wharton County District Court on Aug. 14. It was transferred to the Caution-Wet-FloorHouston Division of the Southern District of Texas on Sept. 16.

    Montalbo says it was raining the day she went to the defendant’s store, alleging she hurt herself when she slipped and fell because of the wet floor near the entrance.

    According to the plaintiff, the business failed to place a sign warning customers.

    “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. negligently permitted the floor to become wet and slippery, negligently or willfully allowed such condition to continue and negligently or willfully failed to warn the plaintiff of the condition on the floor,” the suit says.

    “This condition existed despite the fact that the defendant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. knew or should have known of the existence of the aforementioned condition and that there was likelihood of a person being injured as occurred to the plaintiff.”

    The respondent is additionally faulted for failing to discover and remove the dangerous condition by mopping the area.

    Consequently, Montalbo seeks $100,000 in damages and a jury trial.

    Attorney Boma O. Allison of the Law Offices of Boma Allison & Associates PLLC in Houston is representing the claimant.

    Case No. 4:13-CV-2718


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    GALVESTON – An Orange County couple filed a lawsuit after the husband hurt his foot while working almost six months ago, recent court papers say.

    Jose Solis and Rosa Infante are suing K & L Transport LLC and Signature Manufactured Homes LLC in Galveston County District Court for the alleged April 8 incident.

    The litigation was launched Sept. 17.

    de la Garza

    de la Garza

    It shows that Solis was working for the defendants at the local site of a mobile home delivery and installation when the compact track loader he was using reportedly malfunctioned.

    “The shovel component of a compact track loader or similar machine that was being used for the work suddenly and without warning became compromised and fell onto Mr. Solis’s foot, causing him severe personal injuries,” the original petition says.

    According to the suit, the respondents “failed to properly maintain, service, inspect and/or warn about the machine and failed to adequately provide the means by which he could perform the work he was assigned.”

    “The defendants had actual and constructive knowledge of the condition of the machine at issue that presented an unreasonable risk of harm to anyone operating it and failed to use reasonable care to warn or make the conditions safe,” the suit says.

    Consequently, the complainants seek unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

    They are represented by attorney Mario E. de la Garza of Tucker, Barnes, Garcia & de la Garza PC in Houston.

    Case No. 13-CV-1202


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    HOUSTON – After she was allegedly hit by a hydraulic ladder lift at a Home Depot in Katy two years ago, Tucson, Ariz., resident Abigail Bustos has filed a lawsuit.

    Bustos launched the litigation against Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. in Harris County District Court in May. The case was transferred to the federal court of the Houston Division of the Eastern District of Texas on Sept. 18.

    Home-depot-sign

    The plaintiff was a shopper at the defendant’s store on June 21, 2011.

    She says she was walking in the store when one of its employees moved the lift in question and ran it “directly” into her.

    “There was no warning or barrier around the lift,” the suit says.

    “The defendant created an unsafe condition on its premises by allowing its employee to operate a large piece of equipment without properly securing the area around it.”

    Home Depot is faulted for:

    • Failing to properly train employees on the proper method of moving equipment;
    • Failing to maintain a proper lookout while operating the hydraulic lift; and
    • Failing to safely operate the hydraulic lift.

    Consequently, the complainant seeks unspecified monetary damages.

    Attorney Dennis C. Postiglione of Daniel Stark Injury Lawyers in Bryan is representing Bustos.

    Case No. 4:13-CV-2757


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    GALVESTON – A Galveston bar sued over injuries sustained by a local woman at its premises last year countered the allegations, recent court records show.

    Buck Brothers Inc., doing business as Buckshot Saloon, asserts Renee Nash started the fight she claims left her on the ground hurt in an original answer filed Sept. 12.

    Johnson

    Johnson

    As previously reported, Nash initiated legal action for the physical confrontation purportedly resulting from an escalating tension between patrons.

    She was at the establishment with her friends during the height of the city’s Mardi Gras festivities.

    Nash’s lawsuit explains that the plaintiff was not involved in the subject fight, but she “was knocked over and injured as the fight spilled over onto an area where [she] was standing.”

    The defendant should have known that “numerous incidents of violence” took place at its business, the original petition says.

    Buck Brothers’ three-page response counters that Nash herself was seen “fighting with two other females,” insisting her injuries in question were caused by broken glass on the floor of the bar “caused by an unknown third party who assaulted two patrons on the subject night that resulted in the broken glass being on the floor.”

    The individual, identified as John Doe, was reportedly arrested at the scene following the brawl and is deemed responsible for the events that are the focus of the litigation by the respondent.

    Attorney Derek A. Johnson of Gulley Johnson LLP in Houston is representing Buck Brothers.

    Case No. 13-CV-1035


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    GALVESTON – BP’s head counsel can continue representing the petrochemical company in the trial arising from a 2010 toxic event at a Texas City refinery, a local state district judge ruled.

    Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox rejected lead plaintiffs’ attorney Tony G. Buzbee’s motion to remove Ohio-based attorney Damond R. Mace before the eighth day of the emissions trial began on Sept. 20.

    Mace

    Mace

    More than more than 50,000 people sued over the alleged six week-long release for at least $200,000 in damages, each original petition stating the hydrogen compressor in the refinery’s ultracracker unit went offline on Apr. 6, 2010, and subsequently caused a chemical leak.

    In his motion entered the afternoon of Sept. 19, Buzbee accused Mace of impeaching a Texas City police officer who was one of his witnesses.

    Mace purportedly accepted a transcript of the officer’s testimony without properly examining the text, according to Buzbee.

    Buzbee

    Buzbee

    While Mace boasts a Harvard education along with many accolades and credentials, Buzbee stated, his apparent lack of knowledge of local court rules rendered him unqualified to argue the case at hand.

    Following the short meeting with Judge Cox, the trial continued with jurors watching a video deposition from an environmental specialist and live testimony from a professional engineer.


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    GALVESTON – As the trial into a 2010 BP emission which allegedly lasted six weeks moves toward the one-month mark, the petrochemical company’s legal team anticipates its turn to call in its designated witnesses.

    In a short dialogue with Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox away from the jury’s presence the morning of Sept. 23, Houston attorney Kenneth Tekell of Tekell, Book, Allen & Morris LLP inquired when those testifying for BP will be able to speak.

    BP currently faces legal action over the failure of the hydrogen compressor in its Texas City refinery’s ultracracker unit, which went offline on April 6, 2010, and subsequently caused a chemical leak.

    Tekell

    Tekell

    More than more than 50,000 people sued over the emissions for at least $200,000 in damages, each original petition asserting about 540,000 pounds of chemicals and compounds — including at least 17,000 pounds of benzene — had been released into the facility now belonging to Marathon Petroleum Co. and neighboring area.

    Houston attorney Tony Buzbee of The Buzbee Law Firm, the complainants’ lead counsel, accused BP of prioritizing profits over people to which the latter countered as untrue as it tried to “be a good neighbor.”

    Buzbee

    Buzbee

    Responding to Tekell’s remarks, Buzbee said he is “ahead of schedule” with making his case and will tentatively be done by the end of the week.

    Meanwhile, jurors heard a video deposition from Susan Moore, an environmental specialist, and live testimony given by Dr. Ram Hashmonay, an air monitor and measurement expert.

    Moore answered Buzbee’s queries pertaining to an old flare tip design’s purported role in the toxic event and steam-to-gas ratio while Hashmonay talked about the monitoring system near the refinery.

    The outcome of the trial, which is projected to be reached in matter of six weeks, will set the precedent for how the other cases would proceed.


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    HOUSTON – A U.S. District Court judge disposed a recent lawsuit accusing Walgreen’s Corp. of giving a Houston man the wrong medication.

    Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore issued a dismissal order Sept. 10, effectively ending the litigation between James Edward Briggs and Walgreen’s.

    Briggs first sued the retailer in Harris County District Court in May before the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas received the case the next month.

    Griffis

    Griffis

    Court documents showed that the plaintiff was 17 on May 24, 2011, when he began to take medicine for two days.

    He believed the medication was the antibiotic prednisone which was supposed to treat poison ivy-induced rashes and hives; however, the defendant issued him indomethacin and hydrocodone instead, they said.

    The suit further asserted that Briggs suffered from chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness, excessive sleepiness, rapid heartbeat, heavy nosebleeds and vomiting for which he sought medical attention.

    Physicians at St. Luke’s Hospital diagnosed and treated him for “accidental overdose.”
    Briggs went on to explain that the ordeal ultimately caused him to repeat his junior year of high school.walgreens

    Judge Gilmore’s order notes the parties reached an amicable settlement.

    It gives them a 90-day window to reinstate the suit in the event “settlement is not consummated.”

    Attorney John Philip Griffis of The Law Offices of Phil Griffis in Houston represented the defendant.

    Case No. 4:13-CV-1796


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    GALVESTON – A La Marque resident alleges part of a garbage truck injured him near his home earlier this year and is pursuing legal action against the vehicle’s owner, recent court documents say.

    Kenneth Batson filed a lawsuit Sept. 23 against Republic Services Inc. in Galveston County Court at Law No. 2, seeking more than $100,000 in damages. garbage-truck

    Batson shows that prior to the subject event, the garbage truck operator called him to said vehicle.

    “Before the plaintiff could walk away from the defendant’s garbage truck, the claws on the side of the truck which were holding a trash can came back down and struck said plaintiff with great force and violence causing him serious, permanent and painful bodily injuries,” the original petition says.

    The suit insists that the claimant did nothing to cause the incident for which he sues and blames Republic Services for:

    • Failing to provide proper training;
    • Failing to provide proper supervision;
    •  Failing to provide proper equipment;
    • Failing to provide adequate safety measures; and
    • Failing to warn.

    Consequently, Batson sues for physical pain and impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish and medical expenses.

    He is represented by attorney Kelly Forester of Matthews & Forester in League City.

    The case has been assigned to Galveston County Court-at-Law No. 2 Judge Barbara Roberts.

    Cause No. 70,770


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    GALVESTON – The legal team representing local residents who claim to have been exposed to toxic chemicals at BP’s Texas City refinery brought in a physician to testify Wednesday afternoon.

    Jurors listened to Dr. Barry Levy discuss the aspects of general causation in relation to the alleged emission at the refinery, then owned by BP, which began on April 6, 2010, and continued for six weeks.BP-Texas-City-Refinery

    Levy’s testimony is part of a “test” trial into what more than 50,000 people assert was the release of about 540,000 pounds of chemicals and compounds — including at least 17,000 pounds of benzene from the facility now owned Marathon Petroleum Co.

    Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox is hearing arguments from The Buzbee Law Firm and BP’s lead counsel over the first four allegations from the first four plaintiffs, the outcome set on becoming the precedent for how the other cases would proceed.

    Dr. Levy, an epidemiologist, explained that “general causation” applies when agents such as air pollution cause disease on a certain segment of the population.

    Judge Lonnie Cox

    Judge Lonnie Cox

    He went over three categories of chemicals relevant in the alleged incident, namely, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

    Citing the U.S. government, Dr. Levy stated that “all three sets of chemicals can cause respiratory tract irritation, eye irritation and related symptoms,” adding he implemented a three-step process to determine his findings.

    Dr. Levy said he does not know exactly what the four plaintiffs suffered following the emission, but surmised they likely experienced breathing problems, coughing, fatigue and nausea.

    The rest of Dr. Levy’s time on the stand was spent going over slides of previous studies, during which he attested there is a connection between the aforementioned categories and asthma.

    A BP attorney then cross-examined Dr. Levy on his deposition from earlier this year and questioned him about toward regarding his research.

    When asked about refinery emission regulation standards, Dr. Levy admitted to not having expertise, but rather was present to tell “the whole truth.”

    The trial is currently in its third week and could last several more.


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    HOUSTON – A Harris County woman has taken Wal-Mart to court over a knee injury she allegedly sustained at its Humble store.

    Recent court records show Sandra K. Blevins filed a lawsuit against the discount retailer in Harris County District Court late last month, and Houston federal court received the case on Sept. 25.knee-xray

    Blevins was shopping at the business in question on Aug. 26, 2011.

    According to the plaintiff, she went down the aisle of the freezer section to retrieve a loaf of bread when the subject event occurred.

    “Ms. Blevins left her cart at the mouth of the aisle, walked approximately halfway down the aisle, selected a loaf of bread and turned to walk back to her grocery cart,” the suit says.

    “After taking a few steps, she slipped in water and fell, landing on her right knee.”
    It calls the claimant’s purported injuries “debilitating.”

    While Blevins faults the defendant for “failing to provide a safe place to shop,” she insists she did nothing to cause her fall.

    “At the time the plaintiff arrived at the frozen food aisle, there existed a defect in the premises in the form of condensation on the floor left behind by store employees who had recently restocked the shelves with frozen goods,” the suit says.

    “This unreasonably dangerous condition ultimately led to the accident.”

    Blevin reportedly seeks at least $500,000 in damages.

    She is represented by attorney David A. Bickham of The Bickham Law Firm in Houston.

    Case No. 4:13-CV-2834


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    GALVESTON – A Harris County man claims a Texas City nursing facility neglected to provide his wife proper medical care, recent court documents say.

    In a lawsuit filed Sept. 30 in Galveston County District Court, Juan Chapa alleges that SCTW Health Care Center, doing business as Bayou Pines Care Center, allowed for Elida Chapa to develop a decubitus ulcer.

    Elida Chapa was placed under the defendant’s care on Sept. 24, 2012, for rehabilitation and long-term care following a stroke.

    Wharton

    Wharton

    Upon admission, she was assessed “as a moderate risk for developing pressure ulcers.”

    The suit explains that Elida Chapa was found to have a skin tear on her left buttock during a nutritional assessment in early October 2012; however, the respondent did not provide wound care for more than a week.

    She was hospitalized for a urinary tract infection, pneumonia, severe malnutrition and acute renal failure the next month.

    According to the suit, the patient “was also found to have multiple severe pressure ulcers upon admission.”

    Her stay at the hospital ended on Nov. 20, 2012.

    The original petition asserts the defendant – as Elida Chapa’s presumed health care provider – committed negligence by “failing to act as a reasonable health care provider would have under the same or similar circumstances.”

    “Whether because of a lack of sufficient qualified staff or because of a lack of training, policies, procedures, oversight or enforcement, the facility failed to meet the standard of care, as did its staff,” it says.

    “In addition, the facility’s record keeping was grossly inadequate, resulting in poor quality of care to the patient.”

    Consequently, Juan Chapa seeks unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

    He is represented by attorney Robert M. Wharton of McIver Brown Law Firm in Houston.

    The case has been assigned to Galveston County 405th District Court Judge Michelle Slaughter.

    Case No. 13-CV-1256


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    GALVESTON – Claiming she fell in the parking lot of a La Marque business almost two years ago, Texas City resident Brenda Gregorcyk has filed a lawsuit.

    Gregorcyk is suing Movie Palace Inc. and Houston resident Paul White, doing business as Night Moves, in response to the Oct. 21, 2011, event in question.shoulder x ray

    She attributes the fall to “a large crack in the parking lot,” stating it caused her to lose her footing and injure her shoulder, head and body.

    The defendants, the original petition states, failed to light or maintain the lighting on the premises parking lot.

    They are additionally blamed for:

    • Failing to properly inspect the parking lot for lighting problems and cracks or defects;
    • Failing to discover the lighting problems and cracks or defects in and on the parking lot;
    • Failing to provide a safe, clean parking area for customers to use when on the premises;
    • Failing to warn the plaintiff that there was a defect in the parking lot and the lighting problems were hazardous to pedestrians; and
    • Creating a dangerous and hazardous condition by not keeping the parking lot maintained and free of hazards.

    Consequently, the claimant seeks $800,000 in damages.

    Attorney Steve Engelhardt of Engelhardt Law PLLC in Houston is representing Gregorcyk, and Galveston County 122nd District Court Judge John Ellisor is presiding over the litigation.

    Case No. 13-CV-1255


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    GALVESTON – Jurors in a trial focusing on an alleged 2010 toxic release at BP’s former refinery in Texas City listened to a chemical engineer from Missouri on Oct. 2.

    Dr. Joseph D. Smith, who teaches chemical and nuclear engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Mo., testified for the petrochemical company, discussing combustion in relation to the emission that allegedly sickened local residents and workers during a six-week period that began April 6, 2010, when the hydrogen compressor in the refinery’s ultracracker unit went offline.

    Mace

    Mace

    The fourth week of the so-called “test” trial ensued with lead plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee of The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston calling on his last batch of witnesses before resting on Oct. 1.

    Claiming it was trying “to be a good neighbor” to the citizens of Texas City and surrounding areas, BP countered Buzbee’s charges that it prioritizes profits over people.

    The trial is centered on four selected claimants out of a reported 50,000 .

    Its outcome will set the precedent for how the other cases would proceed, according to Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox, who is hearing arguments from the residents and the petrochemical company.

    BP’s legal team, headed by Cleveland, Ohio-based attorney Damond R. Mace, began its case later the same day and put two witnesses on the stand.

    Dr. Smith, the first to speak among the defendant’s handpicked experts, stated that he visited the refinery site and looked at the ultracracker unit. The plethora of suits claim the ultracracker failed and set off a chemical leak of about 540,000 pounds of chemicals and compounds — including at least 17,000 pounds of benzene, according to court documents.BP-Texas-City-Refinery

    In the midst of his approximately two-hour long testimony, Dr. Smith viewed videos from the cameras installed in the vicinity of the unit, but said the position of the cameras and the position of the sun affected the appearance of the emitting flame. He said it met the industry standard destruction efficiency with a nearly 100 per cent rating.

    “It is a pattern that repeat(ed) itself every day,” Smith said.

    The longtime educator, whose résumé includes employment with Dow Chemical Co. and John Zink Hamworthy Combustion, added there was data in support of the flare’s existence.

    “This is a refinery,” he said after having recalled seeing and feeling something similar on a flight he took in South America.

    “(It) has to operate in a safe environment otherwise it would have problems.”

    Louis Fowler from the URS Corp. followed Dr. Smith on the stand.

    Fowler talked thoroughly about the air monitoring systems in and around the facility owned by BP at the time, but now owned by Marathon.

    The systems did not detect any dangerous chemical levels, he said.


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    GALVESTON – A toxicologist testifying on behalf of BP said Oct. 3 that the exposure levels from a release of chemicals at the Texas City refinery were not lethal or high enough to jeopardize people’s health.

    Dr. David Pyatt told jurors in the four-week old trial that the benzene released between April and May 2010 was not toxic to the Texas City residents or the refinery workers.

    “The exposure levels that I saw reported in the monitoring and reflected in the model are not toxic,” he said. BP-Texas-City-Refinery

    “There is no evidence that those levels of benzene can hurt anybody ever.”

    While some benzene exposure may be problematic to the blood, Dr. Pyatt explained, it may not increase a person’s risk of developing leukemia “even if the exposure levels were really high.”

    More than 50,000 claimants allege they were exposed to a chemical leak of about 540,000 pounds of chemicals and compounds — including at least 17,000 pounds of benzene — after the hydrogen compressor in the refinery’s ultracracker unit went offline on April 6, 2010.

    Each original petition shows the event lasted for six weeks.

    Lead plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee of The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston stressed that BP prioritizes profits over people to which the defendant believes is untrue.

    The petrochemical company’s legal team, headed by Cleveland, Ohio-based attorney Damond R. Mace, insisted the company tried to make the effort “to be a good neighbor” to the citizens of Texas City and surrounding areas. BP sold the refinery to Marathon Oil in February 2013.

    The trial, which has been going on since Sept. 11, is centered on four selected claimants.

    Billed as a “test” trial, its outcome will set the precedent for how the other cases will proceed, according to Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox, who is presiding.

    Dr. Pyatt, who taught at the high school and college levels, also talked about dose-response, which he used to arrive at his conclusions about benzene, stating it exists virtually everywhere.

    He pointed out that even fruits contain some benzene, and people usually breathe it in and out quickly.

    Compared to the benzene output of 40 percent by cigarettes, industry produces just 3 percent, Dr. Pyatt stated.


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    HOUSTON – Following an apparent on-the-job foot injury, Harris County resident Frank Anthony Montes has brought suit against his employer.

    Montes sued Champions Wholesale Foods LLC in Harris County District Court on June 14.

    The case was transferred to the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 2.

    Huerta

    Huerta

    Montes was working as an “order puller” for the defendant at its premises at the time of the subject event on July 29, 2012.

    According to court documents, another worker using a pallet jack “negligently” collided into the plaintiff, causing the latter to sustain “crushing” injuries to his foot and ankle.

    CWF is blamed for “negligently hiring and entrusting a pallet jack to a reckless and/or irresponsible pallet jack operator when they knew, or should have known that he was a reckless and/or irresponsible pallet jack operator.”

    The company created the unreasonably dangerous condition as well as failed to warn Montes, the suit says.

    A jury trial is requested.

    Attorney Cynthia Huerta of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris L.L.P. in Houston is representing the claimant.

    Case No. 4:13-CV-2908


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