Confidential Settlement in Gas Explosion Burn Case

Kent W. Spence and Tyson E. Logan, of The Spence Law Firm, LLC, settled a serious personal injury burn case against Encana Oil & Gas (USA), Inc., while a Utah jury was in deliberations at the close of a two week federal trial. Mike Melton was a contractor performing work at EnCana’s facility, cleaning an industrial-sized tank, when a flash-fire explosion ignited because EnCana had not closed critical gas valves in the work area. He suffered serious full-thickness third degree burns in the explosion and fire. Kent Spence and Tyson Logan asked the jury to award more than $120 Million in damages to compensate Melton and to punish EnCana for reckless conduct that caused an explosion at Encana’s Utah gas plant. The amount of the settlement with EnCana must remain confidential as a part of the agreement with EnCana.

EnCana’s violation of OSHA requirements was highlighted by The Spence Firm during the trial. EnCana forged a confined space entry permit of lock out and tag out of all gas valves before opening the tank. Melton had no way to know EnCana had not taken the critical safety steps necessary before he was exposed to flammable gases that ignited when he attempted to perform his work as a contractor. The tank was supposed to have been secured, locked out and tagged out by EnCana—so that no gases or vapors could enter the space where he was working—pursuant to OSHA regulations. The flames pinned Mike inside the concrete vault containing the tank, after he managed to rescue his son who had been working next to him.

Mike Melton was severely burned, including third-degree burns to both hands and wrists, requiring extensive skin-grafting and hospitalization. Mike developed an extreme case of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS, also sometimes referred to as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD) in his hands and arms. We represented Mike and took the case to trial in 2007. At the jury trial in the Utah Federal District Court, we proved that EnCana violated numerous OSHA regulations requiring a confined space entry permit and other safety precautions. After a week of trial the jury determined that EnCana was 100% liable for Mike’s injuries. After a second week of trial regarding Mike’s damages, we asked the jury to award compensatory and punitive damages totaling $120 million.

The case settled for a substantial, confidential amount during the jury’s deliberations.

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