In a recent ruling by State District Judge Mike Canaday, 14 Plaintiffs were awarded more than $500,000 in damages from a 2006 oil spill at the Citgo refinery south of Sulphur, Louisiana. Included are $30,000 in punitive damages for each Plaintiff and $2,500 in damages for mental stress over the Plaintiffs’ fears of developing a future disease. Judge Canaday found that, not only was Citgo responsible for the spill and the injuries that resulted, but that it rose to a level high enough that he awarded punitive damages. There are 800 lawsuits arising out of the oil spill against Citgo that remain to be tried in state court. Judge Canaday’s ruling is said to be the benchmark for other cases still pending. Citgo says it will appeal the ruling.
The lawsuit involves claims arising from an oil spill and air release that closed down the Calcasieu Ship Channel. The Plaintiffs in the lawsuit were involved in the cleanup operation. Citgo admitted fault and agreed to pay all compensatory damages that the Plaintiffs could prove were caused by the spill. But Citgo contended it was not liable for punitive damages. Judge Canaday said he had to determine whether Citgo’s actions were the proximate cause of each Plaintiff’s injury and assess the extent of those injuries.
Heavy rains and a series of equipment failures early on June 19, 2006, led to a spill of nearly 100,000 barrels of waste oil at Citgo’s refinery south of Sulphur. The spill was called the largest in Southwest Louisiana’s history and one of the largest ever in the state. It took months and millions of dollars to clean up. In September 2008, Citgo pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to misdemeanor negligence and paid a $13 million fine for the oil and chemical spill.
Richard Wilson and Wells Watson, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, represented the Plaintiffs in their lawsuit and did a very good job.
Source: Associated Press