In October, 2011, a tanker truck driver working in the Bakken suffered severe burns over more than 30% of his body when a water tank at a gas processing plant exploded into a massive fireball. The burns left the driver permanently disfigured and totally disabled from future employment. After three years of litigation, as reported in pleadings filed in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, Bob Schuster settled the case for $20,000,000.
The injured driver drove a tanker truck for a company that was called out to dispose of production water from a gas processing plant in western North Dakota. Unbeknownst to the driver, one of the tanks at the gas plant had been overflowing with water containing a substantial amount of hydrocarbons that filled the surrounding atmosphere with volatile and combustible vapors. A gas plant employee then directed and guided the driver to back his tanker truck into a position within a few feet the overflowing tank, which put a source of ignition, the truck’s diesel engine, into the midst of the combustible vapors. The engine ignited the vapors and a huge explosion and fire ensued.
The gas plant operator denied responsibility for the driver’s injuries. Through very strategic discovery, Bob Schuster was able to prove that the plant had operational problems that led to a shutdown and restart which caused the dangerous amount of hydrocarbon content in the water tanks. Mr. Schuster also showed that plant personnel knew that the tanks had overflowed and created volatile vapors in the immediate area, but failed to warn the driver — and then directed him into a zone of great danger.
The driver and his wife initially contacted Idaho Falls personal injury lawyer Dennis P. Wilkinson. Recognizing the magnitude and complexity of the case, Wilkinson turned to Bob Schuster to organize a team of industry and medical experts to take on a well-financed oil and gas corporation. Mr. Schuster then associated the Maring Williams Law Office in Bismarck, North Dakota, for its local expertise.
The settlement included both a cash payment and a “structured settlement” which will pay monthly amounts to the driver for the rest of his life.