Orange County Firm Obtains $4.5M Verdict Against Oil Company

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Following a six-week jury trial in Ventura County, law firm Bienert, Miller & Katzman secured $4.5 million in damages for its client injured on an oil rig operated by DCOR, LLC.

On June 28, 2016, a Ventura County jury awarded $4.5 million in damages to plaintiffs Craig and Ann Litch following a six-week trial. Mr. and Mrs. Litch’s negligence and loss of consortium claims arose from severe injuries Craig sustained while working as an electrician on an oil platform located off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. The plaintiffs were represented by trial attorneys Ariana Seldman Hawbecker and Thomas H. Bienert, Jr. of the firm Bienert, Miller & Katzman, PLC (“BMK”).¹

In October 2012, Mr. Litch was performing electrical maintenance on a de-energized offshore oil rig operated by defendant DCOR, LLC (“DCOR”). According to Plaintiffs, even though the electrical maintenance was still ongoing, a DCOR employee activated a high-voltage powerline restoring electricity to the rig from the onshore power grid. The influx of electricity triggered an arc-flash explosion where Craig was working, resulting in severe burns to Craig’s face and extremities.

At trial, Bienert and Hawbecker demonstrated that DCOR employees did not follow industry safety standards or its own company safety policies when it failed to alert workers and clear the area in preparation for the re-energization of the oil rig. DCOR’s defense team attempted to deflect responsibility for its role in causing Craig’s injuries onto the different subcontractor companies involved with the project, and failed to accept responsibility for their employees’ safety during testimony. Further, the defense argued that while Mr. Litch sustained severe injuries, he made a full recovery shortly after the accident and could resume working.²

After two days of deliberations, the jury found that DCOR was primarily at fault for Craig’s injuries (10 percent fault was apportioned both to Craig’s employer and a separate contractor) and awarded $4,331,885 to Mr. Litch for loss of income, future medical, and pain and suffering; and $200,000 to his wife for loss of consortium.³ͥ

In light of the successful result at trial, attorney Hawbecker commented, “We are grateful that after a long and painful recovery, our clients are now able to move forward with their lives. While they would give anything to return to their lives before this tragic event, it is clear that the jury understood the magnitude of the pain that they suffered—and continue to suffer—due to the carelessness of the defendant.”

In addition to Hawbecker and Bienert, the plaintiffs’ trial team was comprised of attorney Nancy Sandoval and paralegal Carolyn Howland. BMK is a highly successful firm of trial lawyers with extensive experience in litigation, complex trials, civil false claims, appeals, and white collar criminal defense. To learn more about the firm, please visit http://www.bmkattorneys.com.

¹Litch v. DCOR, California Superior Court, County of Ventura, Case No. 56-2013-00442884.

²Litch v. DCOR, California Superior Court, County of Ventura, Case No. 56-2013-00442884.

³ͥLitch v. DCOR, California Superior Court, County of Ventura, Case No. 56-2013-00442884.

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Esther Hsiao
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