Refinery’s Parent Company Should Have Been Allowed to Designate Recently Non-Suited Defendant as Responsible Third Party – In re CVR Energy, Inc.

On-the-job injury and wrongful death lawsuits can be complex and procedurally difficult at times. Sometimes, multiple defendants are named, and, as the case evolves, they may stand united in their denial of any wrongdoing, or they may begin to point fingers at one another, especially if the ultimate outcome of blaming a particular defendant has the potential to be advantageous to all the defendants, such as in a case in which an employer may be protected from full tort liability by the laws of worker’s compensation, which limit recovery to statutory remedies in most circumstances.

In the recent case of In re CVR Energy, Inc., the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas was petitioned for a writ of mandamus compelling the trial court to vacate an order denying a party’s motion for leave to designate a recently non-suited defendant as a responsible third party pursuant to Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 33.001–33.017 (2015).

Facts of the Case

Two men were killed in a refinery explosion in 2012 while assisting with an effort to “re-start” a pilot light on a boiler. Court documents describe the boiler as both outdated and archaic. The men were employees of the refinery where the boiler was located. Their surviving spouses filed a wrongful death suit against the refinery owner, as well as the company that owned it and, in turn, that company’s parent company. As grounds for recovery, the spouses alleged that some or all of the defendants were liable for negligence or gross negligence in failing to install a boiler management system, inadequately monitoring the dangers at the refinery, failing to repair hazardous conditions, and not complying with certain OSHA directives.

Procedural Background

Some 55 days before the matter was set to go to trial, the plaintiffs filed a notice of non-suit against the refinery owner but continued to allege intentional conduct by it in their amended petition. One of the remaining defendants then sought leave to designate the refinery owner as a responsible third party, but the plaintiffs objected on the grounds that the statute of limitations had run against the refinery owner, and thus the motion was untimely. The trial court agreed and denied the motion.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The court of appeals granted mandamus relief, holding that the remaining named defendants should have been allowed to designate their former co-defendant as a responsible third party in the underlying wrongful death lawsuit by the men’s spouses. In so holding, the court found that the remaining defendants had complied with all statutory requirements and that the plaintiffs were well aware of the alleged fault of the non-suited defendant because of a 15-page incident report faulting it and its employees for the accident.

To Get Advice About a Work-Related Accident

If you have been hurt on the job or lost a loved one in a work-related accident, the experienced work injury law firm of Earl Drott, P.C., can help with your claim. Call us at (903) 531-9300 and ask for an appointment. The initial consultation is free and confidential, and no legal fees are owed unless the case is successfully concluded in your favor. Our offices are located in Tyler, and we serve all of east Texas.

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