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michelle hunterLong Beach, Calif. – Associate Attorney, Michelle Hunter, of The Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates, settled a premises liability claim for $350,000. An operator for an oil well service company was assigned to work on a job site for her employer to pressure test and look for leaks in an oil well. After performing safety checks on their own equipment, Ella’s Plaintiff and her team hooked everything up to the well and began pre-testing. After the last test, the plaintiff was kneeling at the wellhead to check for leaks, when suddenly a brass valve tripped and struck the plaintiff and another crew member. The impact caused the plaintiff to be thrown backward and knocked unconscious.

When the plaintiff regained consciousness, they were bleeding from the head and leg. They were immediately transported by ambulance to the nearest hospital. As a result of the impact, the plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a laceration to his right leg, and right lumbosacral radiculopathy. Prior to the accident, the plaintiff had a history of headaches, which caused him to be labeled an “eggshell plaintiff” for having a pre-existing condition that was made worse by the incident in question.

The plaintiff was in a contractual agreement with the plaintiff’s employer to ensure that both parties adhered to proper protocols. The defendant, as the operator of the oil rig, was responsible for conducting his own security checks to confirm that all of his equipment and materials were in order before the plaintiff’s crew arrived on site. Plaintiff’s team successfully completed their security checks on their own equipment before beginning any work. After the plaintiff’s accident, in the defendant’s own incident report, one of the factors listed as contributing to the accident included “equipment failure.” The report stated that the pipe that exploded contained a brass valve with a working pressure of 600 PSI,

Defendant had a duty to maintain its facilities and equipment before hiring Plaintiff’s crew to perform the tests, and they failed to do so. His negligence left Plaintiff’s team working on a dangerous oil well. Through extensive investigative efforts, Hunter was able to discover that the defendant was negligent on multiple accounts that were a direct result of the accident. Hunter found that the defendant failed to warn the workers that the oil well had been out of service for some time and that the brass valve had a working pressure of only 600 PSI. Had the plaintiff’s crew known of these conditions, as reasonable oil well managers, they would not have performed the pressure tests they had performed on an unstable valve.

The accident could have been avoided if the defendant had performed security checks on the property and kept his equipment up to date. However, the defense seemed to believe that the responsibility was not entirely theirs. They believed that, as an oil well manager, it was the plaintiff’s responsibility to know through testing the hazardous condition of the well and the risks involved when working with oil wells. With respect to the damages suffered by the plaintiff, the defense was adamant to connect the plaintiff’s congenital complaint resulting from his TBI diagnosis with the pre-existing conditions of the plaintiff’s head.

Hunter was determined to discredit all the arguments presented by the defense, in his attempts to dispute both liability and injury. With no offers up to this point, it was at mediation that the defense submitted an opening offer of $75,000. The extensive discovery, which included depositions and a comprehensive mediation report, Hunter finally put an end to any arguments of dispute. Through relentless negotiation and skillful arguing, he was able to settle the matter at mediation for $350,000.


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