El Paso Settles $7.6M Lawsuit in 1997 Pipe Blast

More than four years after an El Paso Natural Gas Co. pipeline exploded underground, injuring a worker who was operating a bulldozer in the area, the law offices of Frank L. Branson, which represented the plaintiff, reported that El Paso and a host of other involved construction companies have settled the lawsuit brought against them.

Rodolfo Rivera and his family settled their claim for a total of $7.6 million, the firm said last Monday. El Paso Natural Gas Co., Dantex Construction Co., Asphalt Pavers Inc. and Mimbela Construction Co. were included in the settlement.

Rivera, a heavy equipment operator, was operating a bulldozer near the intersection of Redd Road and Ressler Drive in El Paso, TX on March 21, 1997, when an underground natural gas pipeline exploded. The pipeline did not ignite, but Rivera was allegedly thrown from the bulldozer and "badly injured," the firm said.

In the lawsuit, which was pending in County Court No. 5 in El Paso County, the family claimed that El Paso Natural Gas and the construction companies were "negligent" and "grossly negligent" in allowing Rivera to work in an area where the pipelines were not properly marked or buried.

"The way the gas company installed and maintained this line created a dangerous condition for everyone who would be working in the area," said Branson. "The gas company and the managers of the construction companies involved were aware of the dangers associated with this buried natural gas line, but allowed Mr. Rivera to work in the area with a 100,000-pound bulldozer."

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