Lawyers from Beasley Allen have filed a lawsuit on behalf of Beverly Kay Willingham, widow of Anthony Lee Willingham, who was killed when a Colonial Pipeline exploded in Pelham, Alabama, in 2016. The complaint alleges that defendant Colonial Pipeline Company knew that its pipeline was dangerous and in disrepair, that sending in a crew to repair its badly leaking fuel pipeline was dangerous, yet Colonial failed to take even the minimum necessary and proper precautions to ensure the plaintiff’s safety. The lawsuit also names Superior Land Designs, LLC, as defendants. Beasley Allen lawyers representing Willingham include Mike Andrews and Chris Glover.
“There is never an excuse for a company to disregard safety in the name of profit or speed. This tragedy would not have happened if these defendants had taken the necessary steps to maintain this pipeline properly and safely, to provide competent supervision on site and at a minimum to have accurate maps showing where its underground components were located so crews could operate safely,” said Andrews. “Anthony Willingham went to work as usual on the day of the explosion but did not return home to his family that night because of the negligence and carelessness of the defendants.”
In September 2016, a leak was discovered on the Colonial Pipeline in Shelby County, Alabama, and Colonial hired L.E. Bell to help repair the leak. Willingham was employed by L.E. Bell and was assigned to one of the crews performing excavation and repair work on the leak. Colonial also hired Superior as an additional third-party inspector to supervise the excavation and repair work performed by Willingham’s crew. Although Superior shared the responsibility to ensure the work was performed safely, Colonial was ultimately responsible.
On the day of the explosion, Colonial’s inspector, Nicky Cobb, failed to report to the excavation site. He instructed the inspector for Superior to allow the excavation to proceed. During the excavation, the pipeline was ruptured, and a large spray of gasoline was released. Willingham and others attempted to flee the site, but the gasoline ignited and created a large explosion, killing Willingham, the Superior inspector, and seriously injuring four others.
The Colonial pipeline is the largest refined petroleum pipeline system in the U.S., extending over 5,000 miles from Houston, Texas to Linden, New Jersey. It delivers 100 million gallons of petroleum products each day. Colonial is responsible for the pipeline system’s condition, operation, maintenance, and repair, including the excavation work similar to that performed by the plaintiff. The leak that occurred in September 2016 resulted in a spill of over 300,000 gallons of gasoline near the Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area located in Bibb and Shelby Counties in Alabama. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) ordered Colonial to shut down a portion of the Pipeline and repair the leak. It was just the latest significant incident for the defendant, which had accrued 185 such incidents in the 10 years preceding the leak. Following the explosion, fires burned for several days and received national media attention. As a result of the explosion, over 170,000 gallons of gasoline were released.
The complaint includes counts of negligence, wantonness, and wrongful death and is filed in The State Court of Gwinnett County, Georgia, Civil Action No. 18 C06090-4.