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Family wins shale wrongful death case

Families and employees working for the oil and gas industry around Galveston, Texas, may be interested in a civil trial that concluded in early December 2013. A jury in Dimmitt County recently sided with the family of a deceased employee in a wrongful death case against Heckmann Water Resources and one employee. The verdict against the shale company awarded the Texas family $284 million as compensation for their relative that was killed in a workplace accident.

The victim died when he was hit with a broken drive shaft from one of vehicles involved in activity at Eagle Ford Shale. The Heckman tractor-trailer, driven by the defendant employee, was riding along FM 133 when the drive shaft broke off and propelled through the windshield of the pickup that the victim was a passenger in. The victim was in his 30s and was a military veteran who served in the United States Army. The accident occurred during late May 2012 when the named defendant was driving a Heckman tractor trailer through Dimmitt County.

The plaintiffs claimed that the drive shaft of the Heckman trailer truck was not properly maintained. The jury verdict found Heckman negligent, but not the employee. The verdict included compensation for the victim's children and $100 million of punitive damages against Heckman. The plaintiff's lawyer said this was one of the largest decisions in state history.

Wrongful death civil cases in Texas can arise from a number of incidents. Some of the common causes of these types of cases include industrial incidents, neglect at nursing homes, trucking accidents and medical malpractice. Families often seek legal counsel for assistance for funeral costs, medical expenses and lost wages. The compensation awarded to parents, spouses and children is typically based on the potential future earnings of the deceased. Lawyers may be able to help families gather and organize evidence in order to prove liability or negligence in a potential wrongful death case.

Source: My San Antonio, "Shale company ordered to pay $281M in wrongful death", Guillermo Contreras, December 07, 2013

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