Delaware judge ordered that an insurance company had a duty to indemnify a refinery after an accident that killed two men, says Frenkel & Frenkel.

A Delaware judge has ruled that Maryland Casualty Insurance Company had a duty to indemnify Premcor Refinery Group, which owns a Delaware City refinery, after two men suffocated inside one of their tanks. The two men worked for Matrix Service Company as boilermakers at the time of their death. Accident Details On November 5, 2005, John J. Ferguson Jr. and Roy Spears were installing an elbow pipe in a reactor at the refinery at the instruction of the boilermaker foreman, John Lattanzi. William Pyatt was the night shift coordinator for Pro-Tech, the company contracted to oversee the work of Matrix employees. While installing the pipe, Ferguson and Spears noticed a roll of duct tape in the reactor, which had been purged with nitrogen, making it unsafe for humans to enter. Ferguson attempted to retrieve the duct tape with wire while Spears sought assistance from Lattanzi, who was standing next to Pyatt when Spears explained the situation. When Lattanzi arrived at the reactor, Ferguson had either crawled or fallen into the reactor, and Lattanzi entered the reactor in an attempt to rescue Ferguson. At some point, after both men were in the reactor, Pyatt entered the reactor deck, saw both men inside and called for emergency assistance. Both Lattanzi and Ferguson died of asphyxiation. Lawsuit Settlement The families of both Lattanzi and Ferguson filed suit against Premcor, alleging that Premcor was negligent when Pyatt failed to take appropriate steps to prevent the accident. Premcor settled the Lattanzi suit in October 2008 and the Ferguson suit in July 2010. In January 2007, Premcor filed suit against Maryland Casualty, claiming the insurance company had a duty to indemnify Premcor for the settlements awarded to the families of Lattanzi and Ferguson. Maryland Casualty contended it was not Pyatt’s duty to provide safety training or understand the duties of the boilermaker department. However, Pyatt testified that he was aware that it was common industry practice that a person cannot break the plane of a reactor without a confined space permit, which Ferguson and Lattanzi did not have. In addition, Pyatt testified that he was aware that Ferguson’s attempts to retrieve the duct tape violated safety protocols, but that it was “a way to get on with the job.” Judge’s Ruling The Honorable Andrea L. Rocanelli ruled that Maryland Casualty did have a duty to indemnify Premcor for the settlements, and granted a Summary Judgment request from Premcor for those settlements. When the actions of another person are suspected as the cause or a contributing factor in an accident that causes injury or death, a wrongful death claim may be in order. Contact Dallas-Fort Worth lawyers at Frenkel & Frenkel to schedule a free initial consultation regarding an accident where injuries may have been caused or worsened by the actions of another person.

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