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Workers comp exclusive remedy doesn't apply in liability lawsuit against BP

Workers comp exclusive remedy doesn't apply in liability lawsuit against BP

A liability lawsuit filed by hundreds of workers against a business unit of BP P.L.C. can't be dismissed under workers compensation exclusive remedy provisions because BP hasn't shown that the plaintiffs suffered work-related injuries, a federal judge ruled last week.

In Samuel Charles Boyd Jr. et al. v. BP Products North America Inc., Mr. Boyd and more than 500 other Texas residents — including about 315 BP workers — claim that an alleged November 2011 chemical release at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, had “severely harmed” them. The original tort complaint, which was filed in a Galveston, Texas, court in April 2013, says plaintiffs suffered breathing impairments, vocal cord damage and other injuries.

BP argued in the case, which was moved to the U.S. District Court in Houston in May 2013, that workers comp was the exclusive remedy for plaintiffs in the Boyd case who worked for BP, according to court filings. However, federal Judge Keith P. Ellison ruled Jan. 6 that BP failed to meet a burden of proof showing that workers comp exclusive remedy provisions should apply in the case.

BP showed that it carried workers compensation insurance for each of the worker plaintiffs, who were either contractors or subcontractors at the BP refinery in Texas City, Judge Ellison said. However, he found that BP did not show that injuries allegedly suffered by the plaintiffs were directly work-related and compensable under workers comp.

Documents presented by BP “show only each plaintiff's identifying information and information about his or her place of work and job position in November 2011,” the decision reads. “Nothing in the fact sheet excerpts indicates where or when plaintiffs believe they were exposed to BP's alleged chemical release. The court is also unpersuaded that the prior statement of plaintiffs' counsel to the court regarding the meaning of the 'worker' designation is sufficient summary-judgment evidence that the injuries would actually fall within the scope of Defendant's workers' compensation policies.”

Judge Ellison said he would be willing to consider a renewed claim for workers comp exclusivity once discovery is completed on “the circumstances of the workers' alleged injuries.”

BP sold its Texas City refinery to Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum Corp. for $2.4 billion in February 2013, according to a statement from BP.

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