An Oklahoma jury has awarded C&H Power Line Construction $27 million, $1 million of which was punitive, in its case against Enterprise Texas Pipeline. The case was centered on the pipeline company’s negligence in gas pipeline safety.
The case was filed by C&H against Enterprise after a fatal explosion occurred on Enterprise’s North Texas 36 Pipeline in June 2010. The jury found that Enterprise failed to mark its pipeline in response to a “Call Before You Dig” request made by C&H to the Texas “One-Call” system. State and federal laws mandate that pipeline owners and utility companies must mark their pipelines in response to “Call Before You Dig” requests within 48 hours of receiving the call.
In the lawsuit, C&H, the company that was digging near the pipeline in order to replace electric-power line poles, claimed not only that Enterprise failed to mark its pipeline, but also that Enterprise issued an “all-clear” notice, indicating that no pipeline was in the vicinity of the proposed excavation site.
Within hours of receiving the “all clear” from Enterprise, one of C&H’s employees hit a 36-inch, high-pressure pipeline while excavating, causing an explosion and fireball that left one worker dead, many others injured and, according to C&H, triggered a chain of events that ultimately put the company out of business.
In delivering the highest verdict in Washington County history, the jury sent a clear message to pipeline companies: public safety must be your first priority. If it isn’t, and tragedies occur, be prepared to pay dearly for the devastating consequences of your negligence.