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Williams to Appeal $13.6M Jury Award For Geismar Explosion

A jury in Iberville Parish, LA, has awarded a total of $13.6 million to four men who were injured in a June 2013 explosion and fire at Williams' Geismar, LA, olefins plant. Williams said it will appeal the verdict.

The jury assigned 95% of the responsibility for the explosion to Williams Companies Inc. and 3% to local holding company Williams Olefins LLC, according to plaintiffs' attorney Kurt Arnold. Two plant employees were each assigned 1% of responsibility for the accident.

"The jury also found that Williams Companies had known there was a 'substantial certainty' of a deadly explosion at the Geismar company for years -- yet they repeatedly opted not to address the problem that ultimately claimed the lives of two workers and injured 114," Arnold said in a statement.

Williams said it plans to appeal.

"Nothing about the tragic accident at the Williams Olefins facility in Geismar on June 13, 2013, was intentional," the company said in a statement. "We believe there is sufficient Louisiana case law that supports our legal position, and we will appeal the jury verdict rendered in the 18th Judicial District Court."

The three-week trial was followed by five hours of deliberation by the jury. The plaintiffs were Shawn Thomas, Kris Devall, Eduardo Elizondo and Michael Dantone.

More trials related to the incident are expected to come, with the next scheduled for Nov. 2.

The incident on June 13, 2013, killed two workers (see Daily GPIJune 25, 2013). Later that year, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Williams Olefins for six process safety management violations related to the explosion (see Daily GPIDec. 12, 2013). A subsequent repair and expansion of the plant was plagued by delays (see Daily GPIDec. 31, 2014). Earlier this month, Williams said it was considering a possible sale of its share in the plant (see Daily GPISept. 7).

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