On January 26, 2018 and after a jury trial spanning three weeks, the Offshore Injury Lawyers of Morrow & Sheppard LLP won a unanimous $1.6 million verdict in federal court in Galveston, Texas for our client, who had slipped and fallen on an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico owned by Defendant Fieldwood Energy LLC (“Fieldwood”). Our client slipped and fell twice on oil and liquid that had been leaking for months while responding to an alarm in the middle of the night. Our client sustained significant hip and back injuries as a result of the incident. He has been unable to work since and needs additional back surgery. Our client was a mechanic for third-party Waukesha-Pearce, a large construction and mechanical contractor with offices in at least 11 states. He had worked for Waukesha-Pearce since 2008.
Prior to the incident, our client had reported the leaks to platform owner Fieldwood. Although our client was an independent contractor and although he controlled the details of his work, Fieldwood had to approve any platform shutdowns. Repairing the leaks would require the platform to be shut down, and would require the replacement of expensive parts, which would cut into Fieldwood’s profits. Fieldwood would not authorize those measures despite the persistence of dangerous leaks.
In its defense, Fieldwood claimed that our client (a) had not fallen and had fabricated the entire incident, (b) did not report that he had fallen, (c) had pre-existing back injuries and no new injuries from any alleged fall, and (d) had not reported any leaks previously. Fieldwood pointed to the absence of witnesses and incident reports describing a fall as proof the incident was fabricated. Fieldwood also claimed that our client had told inconsistent stories to his doctors about what happened, and that he failed to mention any alleged falls until approximately 1 year later. Fieldwood also claimed that the platform records proved there were no leaks as alleged by our client, and that it was impossible for the leaks to have occurred as alleged. Fieldwood retained an expert who opined that it was impossible for significant amounts of oil to have leaked as alleged, and who claimed it was impossible for our client to have fallen as he claims, despite considerable evidence of leaks and poor conditions to the contrary:
At trial, each of Fieldwood’s defenses were methodically shown to be false and lacking credibility.
For example, Fieldwood relied on its own daily platform reports, which the government requires to be accurate, to show that there were no leaks and to show the platform had not sustained a shutdown from an alarm on the night in question. We demonstrated these records were inaccurate based on reports maintained elsewhere:
Fieldwood also relied upon testing analysis conducted over time to demonstrate there were no leaks, and Fieldwood’s experts relied upon the testing analysis. We were able to show, during trial, that at least some of these testing reports appeared to have been doctored, with new testing data cut-and-pasted from prior test data.
We were also able to get Fieldwood’s person-in-charge to admit, on the stand, that the compressor building roof over where our client fell had “extensive corrosion,” was “in really bad shape,” leaked as a result, created a dangerous situation when it rained, and was in “desperate” need of repair before our client fell. He also admitted that he had asked his supervisors at Fieldwood to authorize the repairs, but that the repairs had not been done.
We were also able to obtain admissions—from the stand—that our client had in fact reported the incident to his safety representative at Waukesha-Pearce, and that Waukesha-Pearce had notified Fieldwood. Remarkably, neither Waukesha-Pearce nor Fieldwood had documented our client’s report of a fall, and later used the lack of documentation to suggest the incident had not happened.
There were 17 witnesses at trial over a three-week period, including fact witnesses, corporate representatives, medical experts, vocational experts, engineering experts, and economic experts. In closing arguments, it was stressed that the jury had to strongly consider the credibility of the parties when deciding what really happened. After hearing all of the evidence, the 8-person jury unanimously agreed that our client had fallen as alleged due to the negligence of Fieldwood, and agreed that his damages caused by the incident were approximately $1.6 million, comprised of $155,000 in past medical expenses, $506,000 in future medical, $306,000 in lost past wages, $400,000 in lost future wages, and $185,000 in pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Morrow & Sheppard offshore injury lawyers John Sheppard, Nick Morrow, and Daniel Sheppard tried the case with chief paralegal Jose Jimenez, and Chris West assisting on the trial team.
The case is styled Milorad Raicevic v. Fieldwood Energy LLC et al, 15-cv-327 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Galveston Division).
This is the second million-plus verdict for Morrow & Sheppard in just a few months. On October 26, 2017, M&S secured a verdict of approximately $7 million for our client injured in a home explosion.