If you searched the web, you may have a loved one who has been involved in an explosion or a catastrophic accident. I’m Chris Parks, and I’ve represented injury victims and surviving family members in a number of explosions and catastrophic accident cases. One of the first things you need to know is that the parties who are potentially responsible for a catastrophic accident likely notified their insurance representatives and their lawyers immediately after the accident — possibly within minutes of the occurrence. It is important you find a lawyer you are comfortable with to represent you quickly since your lawyer may be able to obtain critical facts, statements or photographs that will assist you later at trial. An experienced explosion attorney may also be able to hire experts and investigators to obtain early information. The best way I can illustrate this is to give you several examples from my own work representing victims of explosions and catastrophes. Here are a few war stories:
I was having lunch when a waitress I knew well asked me if I could help her daughter, who I will call Jean. Jean had a son with a married man. This man had been killed a few days before at a Bethlehem Steel shipyard. Jean was concerned because her son’s father was still married at the time of his death and his wife was bringing a lawsuit on her own behalf and on behalf of her two children. Jean wanted to know if I could do anything for her child?
I was able to obtain a temporary restraining order requiring the shipyard to preserve all evidence and to allow me, my investigator, and photographer immediate access to the yard and to the offshore oil platform where the fire had occurred. I arrived at the shipyard on a Friday afternoon with my team but was told by the shipyard manager that despite the court order he would not grant us access due to safety concerns. This was ridiculous as my team had extensive experience and agreed to wave any liability
I called the local Justice of the Peace who asked that I put him on a speaker so that everyone in the office at Bethlehem could hear what he had to say about their decision to deny us access. The Justice, Tony Ippolitto, in a calm and relaxed voice, explained to the shipyard manager that Friday was fried chicken night at his house and his wife cooked the best-fried chicken in the county. He said he looked forward to Friday nights all week…
As close as I can recall, the next sentence was something of the order. “So help me if I have to get up from this table and come down there to enforce a valid court order, there will be hell to pay. I’m not too fond of cold chicken.” After some nervous laughter, and a few yes sirs — we were allowed in.
What we saw stunned us all. Our client had been inside a compartment in the circular leg of an offshore drilling platform. He was welding on one side of a steel wall called a bulkhead. On the other side of the bulkhead was his welding partner. Somehow the acetylene and oxygen hoses that fed their torches were burned in two while cutting. This resulted in pressurized open flames shooting from severed hoses which slashed back and forth inside this confined steel chamber blocking the only possible exit for both men and heating the chamber like a furnace.
The trial testimony of his surviving partner was grotesque. He recalled our client screaming, crying, and calling to him as he slowly burned to death. Both men yelled and banged on the steel walls of the compartment, praying that someone outside would hear them. No one did.
The fire marshal testified at trial that the temperature in the compartment exceeded 500 F. The last thing the witness told the jury was that his partner’s dying request was whispered to him while both men touched their fingers in a small opening at the bottom of the steel wall. The request was “Jackie, tell the girls to take care of my kids.”
Even though it was several days after the accident when we were admitted to the shipyard, a number of the photographs we took wound up as key pieces of evidence at trial. The pictures show the deplorable housekeeping conditions in the shipyard and on the platform. Safety experts explained to the jury that housekeeping and safety go hand-and-hand, especially in an industrial environment. We also showed jurors pictures of the small manhole which was the only access to the compartment. We hired the author of a book that discussed the extreme hazard of single access compartments and the OSHA requirement that a “hole-watch” be posted at the single access point. He testified that if Bethlehem had spent the extra salary and posted a hole-watch, our client would likely never have been burned, much less killed.
There is more to tell about this case, but suffice it to say early and aggressive action including, the obtaining of a restraining order, the refusal to take no for an answer, and the intervention of law enforcement, resulted in the securing of valuable evidence that would have been otherwise lost.
On March 23, 2005, an explosion at BP’s Texas City Refinery killed fifteen people — Chris Parks represented family members of two of the fifteen. This refinery was the second largest in the state of Texas and the third largest in the United States. In addition to those killed, 180 others were injured and an entire section of the refinery was obliterated.
Chris was hired within days of the disaster, as were most of the other attorney’s involved. The following is Chris’s explanation of how the case proceeded and of how these cases are often handled by teams of attorneys, rather that lone-wolf litigators:
“I remember the minute I was hired on the BP case. I was driving toward Houston and I immediately began calling engineering experts I had worked with in the past, and other attorneys who had recently tried similar cases in order to discuss the expert witnesses they had used in their trials. Many of the experts I called that day with were later called by other lawyers working on the case. Within two weeks a meeting of the victims’ attorneys convened and we began pooling our resources and experts in order to better represent our clients. Within four weeks, all attorneys wrote significant checks in order to fund our discovery efforts. However each lawyer and law firm continued to represent their own clients individually. Within seven weeks, my clients had a binding agreement that paid them a very large settlement amount immediately and guaranteed they would receive further amounts in the future as the other cases went to trial. (The specific amounts of the settlements are confidential.)
I have been involved in other similar group efforts — in other mass tort trials — and in each case duties are assigned to members of the group based on the particular expertise their firms can offer, and on the speed at which their firms can complete the tasks. In these cases, groups of lawyers build and organize computer databases, analyze documents, attended hearings of government agencies, research legal and factual issues and prepare court documents. On occasion, I have been given assignments and on other occasions, I have been the one making the assignments. Both roles are equally important but perhaps, most important is the ability to work with other lawyers who know and respect your ability to contribute to the process.”
If you or a loved one are considering hiring an attorney due to a large explosion or a catastrophe such as a train-wreck, multi-vehicle accident, or any type of sudden and unexpected event involving multiple parties, you should understand that due to the number of victims involved, whoever you hire may end up being only one of many excellent and capable attorney’s involved in the prosecution of the case. Not only does your attorney need to be experienced, he or she needs to understand both how to give orders and how to take orders within a group of exceptionally large egos. It helps to have handled these types before.
Chris Parks was appointed by Judge Lee H, Rosenthal as liaison counsel in the 1990 Galveston oil spill case. As liaison, his job was to coordinate with all attorneys representing victims and present a united front to the court when possible. He was later appointed by Judge Richard A. Schell as liaison counsel in the Norplant Implant Lawsuits which were consolidated for trial and concerned 36,000 women injured throughout the United States. As a successful liaison counsel in two separate federal court cases, appointed by two different federal judges, Chris has demonstrated his ability to work as a team member on complex lawsuits.
Explosion & Burn Attorneys handle these types of cases for injured clients — obviously. But, these cases are different than most, and it helps for a lawyer to have experience in this field. Often times, these cases require extensive early investigation and the efforts of a large group of litigators. A law firm needs to be able to finance such a case by hiring experts, paying for private investigators, and traveling to inspect the scene. Fortunately, our firm is in a position to handle catastrophic cases on short notice.
If you have been the victim of a catastrophic accident and are wondering what to do next. Call Chris Parks at (720) 805-1193
Feel free to call and ask about other cases
“If I can not help you, I may be able to refer you to a lawyer who can. Regardless of where the accident happened, you need to speak with an experienced attorney and come up with a game plan on what steps to take and when. You also need to understand those responsible for the accident have been doing the same thing since the accident occurred. Our firm may be able to help level the playing field.”
Explosions, burns, and major catastrophic accidents claims are cases that Chris Parks has successfully handled in the past. Chris Parks P.C. can help you get the settlement you deserve. Call (720) 805-1193 to discuss your case with Chris today. Case evaluations are always free.