McALESTER, Okla. – Following three weeks of testimony related to a tragic 2018 oil rig explosion that killed five, jurors found that Houston-based National Oilwell Varco (NOV) was only 10 percent responsible while other companies initially named in the lawsuit were 90 percent at fault.
The devastating accident was the industry’s deadliest since the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The lawsuit was brought by two of the surviving families. The other companies named as defendants settled with the families before trial. Attorneys for the plaintiffs had sought $200 million in damages but the jury found NOV should pay only $2 million.
The well was owned by Red Mountain Energy, of Oklahoma City. The rig was owned and operated by Patterson-UTI Energy, a Houston-based oil field services company. NOV provided the drilling mud used in the operation and one on-site worker.
NOV lawyers argued that the company had a very limited role in the operation, and NOV employees had not been authorized to make any of the decisions that led to the tragedy. The jurors agreed, finding the other defendants were 90 percent responsible. The plaintiffs rejected a settlement offer from NOV before trial that was far higher than the amount the jury ultimately returned.
“The jury has spoken,” said lead counsel John Zavitsanos, a co-founding partner of AZA. “We very much respect their time. We respect the people of Pittsburg County who have been very hospitable to us over the last month. It was a very, very hard-fought case. Our heart goes out to both of these families and I wish neither side were here, and I wish this had never happened.”
The case is Julie Smith, et al. v. Red Mountain Energy, LLC, et. al., No. CJ-2018-60, in the Pittsburg County Court of District Judge Mike Hogan.
AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2019 among the best in Texas commercial law; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for eight years running; was named 2019 Litigation Department of the Year by Texas Lawyer; and was previously dubbed by Law360 a Texas Powerhouse law firm. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 500 and 1000.