Two Killed, 30-Plus Injured After Chemical Spill at LyondellBasell Facility in La Porte, TX
Jul 31, 2021
Recently, a deadly chemical spill at the LyondellBasell Facility in La Porte, Texas, left two workers dead and injured at least 30 others. According to a recent news report covering the spill, authorities responded to an emergency call, reporting a chemical spill in the acetyls unit of the plant. Evidently, the chemicals used in the spill were used to make medical supplies and food-grade vinegar.
The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality initiated an investigation, explaining that the chemical was a mixture of catalyst, acetic acid, methyl iodide, and hydrogen iodide. In a statement made after the accident, LyondellBasell acknowledged that up to 100,000 pounds of acid were released during the incident.
As a result of the spill, two workers were killed, six required hospitalization and at least 20 others suffered injuries.
What Is Acetic Acid?
This recent spill at the LyondellBasell plant involved the release of acetic acid. Acetic acid is a clear, flammable liquid and vapor that is very corrosive and poses severe dangers to those who inhale or come into contact with the substance. Most often, the chemical will cause severe skin burns and eye irritation; however, exposure in large amounts can be fatal.
Wrongful Death and Survival Claims arising out of a Fatal Chemical Spill
When a worker is killed as a result of a dangerous chemical spill, families must deal with not only the immense grief of their loss but also the financial repercussions. The spouse, children, and parents of the deceased victim can bring wrongful death actions for the harms that result from the death of their loved one. Also, the estate of the deceased victim can bring a survival action for the pain and anguish that the worker suffered prior to their death, as well as for medical expenses and funeral expenses.
Texas Wrongful Death Action
A wrongful death action is a type of Texas personal injury cause of action or claim that family members can bring to obtain compensation for the loss of their loved one. Under Texas law, a spouse, child, and parent can bring a wrongful death claim.
To establish liability in a Texas wrongful death claim following a fatal workplace fatality, the claimant must show that their loved one died as a result of the defendant’s “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.”
Damages Available in a Texas Wrongful Death Action
Nothing can bring back a family member who was killed in a senseless on-the-job chemical leak. However, the surviving spouses, children, and parents may seek damages through wrongful death claims. Monetary damages consist of actual damages, and in some cases, exemplary (punitive) damages.
Actual damages include (1) pecuniary losses, (2) mental anguish, (3) loss of companionship and society and (4) loss of inheritance. Pecuniary losses, in turn, include the loss of the decedent’s earning capacity, advice, counsel, services, care, maintenance and support; they may also include expenses for the family member’s psychological treatment that resulted.
Loss of inheritance is defined as the present value that the victim would, in reasonable probability, have added to the estate and left at natural death to the statutory beneficiaries, but for the wrongful conduct that resulted in the death.
In some cases, a judge or jury can award exemplary (punitive) damages. Unlike actual damages, punitive damages are not designed to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries. Instead, punitive damages focus on punishing the defendant for their, especially egregious behavior. Punitive damages are rare and are awarded when the plaintiff can prove that the death was caused by the wrongdoer’s willful act or omission or gross negligence.
Texas Survival Action
When a negligent party causes a workplace fatality, the victim’s estate can recover damages that the deceased victim herself suffered as a result of the wrongdoing. The “survival” action is brought on behalf of the deceased for the deceased’s damages, including their physical pain and mental anguish that preceded the death, their medical bills, and their funeral expenses. It is called a “survival” action because the claim “survives” the death of the deceased, allowing the deceased’s estate to bring the claim.
Economic and Noneconomic Damages
In Texas, there are two types of actual or “compensatory” damages: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are meant to compensate a claimant for actual economic or pecuniary loss and can often be determined by presenting receipts, medical bills or through the testimony of an expert witness. Examples of economic damages include the following:
- Medical expenses in the past and future
- Loss of earning capacity in the past and future
Noneconomic damages are more subjective in nature. Examples of non-economic damages include the following:
- Physical pain in the past and future
- Mental anguish in the past and future
- Physical impairment in the past and future
In a wrongful death claim after a work accident, the claimant’s noneconomic damages include loss of consortium and the loss of companionship and society.
Both economic and non-economic damages are crucial to ensuring that an accident victim is fully compensated for their physical and emotional injuries.
Have You Been Injured or Lost a Loved One in a Houston Workplace Chemical Spill?
At The de la Garza Law Group, we know that no two cases are the same. Every client is special. Every case is personal. We know that in order to help our clients obtain the justice they deserve, we must get to know our clients and how the injuries have impacted their lives or, in the case of a fatal incident, how the death has impacted the surviving family members. For this reason, we spend significant time getting to know the details of each client’s case and always maintain awareness of the client’s goals for the representation.
If you were recently injured or lost a loved one in a Texas workplace chemical spill, contact The de la Garza Law Group today. We offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation. To learn more, call 713-784-1010, or call toll-free at 844-784-1010.
We proudly represent clients throughout Texas, including all major metropolitan areas. We represent many clients throughout the greater Houston area, including Harris County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Jefferson County, Chambers County, Waller County and Montgomery County, including The Woodlands, Pearland, Pasadena, Baytown, Clear Lake, Galveston, and Sugar Land.