No Win For Insurer in Complex Texas Personal Injury Case

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 at 9:47 pm    

4 million dollars was paid out in a personal injury lawsuit filed against Exxon Mobil Corp. as a result of a chemical plant explosion in Baytown Texas in 2012. The lawsuit had been filed by workers at the plant who were injured and was also filed against subcontractor Wyatt Field Service Co., citing faults in the machinery that Wyatt had installed several years previously.

The insurers for Exxon Mobil have tried to fight their responsibility to cover the cost of the lawsuit in a case which has demonstrated just how complex big personal injury cases can get.

At no time has Exxon or Wyatt fought the lawsuit and they have not attempted to deny liability for the injuries caused by workers at the Baytown plant. It is the insurance company, Commerce and Industry Co., which is a subsidiary of the insurance giant AIG, that has been fighting having to pay out the amount that Exxon paid in the lawsuit.

Insurer, not the defendant, fighting personal injury payment

The case may have been finally settled last week when the Texas Supreme Court refused to review a lower court ruling which confirmed Commerce’s liability for the lawsuit sum. The review had been requested by Commerce and Industry in the latest attempt to wriggle out of paying for the amount paid.

The workers who had been injured were not actually employed by subcontractor Wyatt. Wyatt had ceased operations at the Baytown plant three years before the explosion, but had installed some of the equipment that workers alleged in their lawsuit had been faulty and were at least part of the reason why the explosion took place.

Wyatt had taken out insurance as requested by Exxon Mobil during the time it was operating as a subcontractor at the plant. The insurance amounted to $2 million with Liberty Surplus Insurance Corp. and $25 million with Commerce and Industry.

After the lawsuit was filed, Exxon Mobil as one of the two defendants, settled with the plaintiffs before the case went to trial. They then turned to Commerce and Liberty, the insurers for cover.

How insured is “additional insured?”

Both insurance companies have fought a previous court ruling that Exxon was covered by Wyatt’s “additional insured” policies it had with the two insurers.

Exxon was confirmed as “additional insured” as part of a summary judgment by a Harris County district court. This decision was upheld in December 2015 by the fourteenth Court of Appeals. The decision recognized that Exxon would not have been sued by the injured workers if it hadn’t been for the faulty installation carried out by the subcontractor. The lawsuit claims were within the “additional insured” coverage according to this decision.

Not all personal injury cases are as big and as complicated as the one described above, but because Texas is a center for petrochemical plants and other chemical operations, it is inevitable from time to time that major accidents occur. Serious injuries can involve workers, visitors and can even affect residential areas and their occupants if an explosion causes a fire which spreads beyond the confines of the plant.

The account confirms the fact that you need a highly experienced San Antonio personal injury attorney when you need to obtain justified compensation as a result of an industrial accident that was not your fault.

Call a San Antonio personal injury attorney right away if you, or a family member, have been injured at a chemical plant or oilfield.

Accidents at industrial plants and oilfields can be extremely serious and those responsible and their insurers are often very powerful corporations who are rarely keen on paying compensation or even admitting liability. Call the Patino Law Firm in San Antonio at 210-646-9100 to arrange a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

Could Texas Caps on Medical Malpractice Suits Lead to More Criminal Cases Against Doctors?

Posted on Friday, February 24th, 2017 at 12:39 am    

The case of Christopher Duntsch, the ex-neurosurgeon who was sentenced to life imprisonment for just one of a number of botched surgeries, may be the start of more to come, if the caps on medical malpractice lawsuits in Texas are retained as low as they are now, claims a medical malpractice attorney.

The attorney, Chris Hamilton, who is a Dallas based attorney, says that when the cap was imposed in 2003 it meant that it became less likely that medical professionals were going to be sued through the civil court. That could mean that they would be more likely to cause harm to others and ultimately only a criminal conviction would stop them.

The Duntsch case

Christopher Duntsch was an up and coming neurosurgeon but something went wrong in his career. He was tried and found guilty by a 12 member jury in Dallas recently. The case that saw him convicted was a botched surgery on an elderly patient, Mary Efurd, that left her bleeding and eventually led to her death.

Efurd’s death was not the only one that was attributed to Duntsch’s botched surgery. Kellie Martin also bled to death in 2012. Several others of Duntsch’s patients were left with serious injuries after his surgery on them.

The jury heard from many of Duntsch’s former colleagues, family and relatives of patients who had suffered.

Duntsch is the first surgeon to have been imprisoned for medical malpractice. It took an hour for the jury to make a decision. The prosecutor, Michelle Schugahart, in her summing up said that Duntsch had continued to ruin lives because of “greed”. She said that that he owed money and being a neurosurgeon meant that he could earn plenty of it.

Duntsch’s defense attorney said that he had become a scapegoat for hospitals and medical establishments that had employed him. Melinda Lehman said that it wasn’t right that these institutions had continued to put Duntsch into operating rooms knowing that he had botched earlier operations just so “that they could continue to make money.”

The cap on medical malpractice lawsuits

Many states have a cap on personal injury lawsuits but the cap is usually imposed on what are termed “non-economic” components. These include such things as “pain and suffering,” “loss of enjoyment of life” and “punitive damages.” Economic components are medical expenses and lost wages or other income which are a direct result of a personal injury. There is not usually any cap put on these as their value can fairly easily be documented accurately.

Texas has a medical malpractice non-economic component cap of $250,000. That means that if a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed, amounts for pain and suffering and any other non-economic components cannot be more than that figure.

According to Chris Hamilton, that figure is too low. He says that because of the full cost of a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is less likely that a lawsuit will be filed because of the cap. He says that this might mean that a doctor or surgeon or any other medical professional could keep causing injury without being stopped by civil action against them. The same goes for medical establishments that might be implicated in the malpractice because they are aware of this happening yet allow it to continue. He claims that supervisors often only realize that there is something seriously wrong when a private lawsuit is filed against a medical professional.

Challenges against the Texas cap have so far failed

Texas has upheld the 2003 cap despite challenges against its constitutionality. Challenges have been successful in several other states. The Texas cap has also not been adjusted for inflation since 2003, 14 years ago and is therefore significantly lower in real terms today than it was when it was imposed.

Call a San Antonio medical malpractice attorney right away if you suspect or know of medical malpractice

Medical malpractice can cause serious injury, long term misery and even death. Call Patino Law Firm in San Antonio on 210-646-9100 to arrange a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Dr Louis Patino is an experienced San Antonio personal injury attorney with extensive experience in the medical field.