Andrew Traub
|Defective Products

First lawsuit filed in deadly chemical leak

The first lawsuit filed in this week's deadly chemical leak at the LyondellBasell La Porte plant alleges the company showed 'gross negligence' in failing to warn employees about the dangerous nature of materials with which they worked.

Two people were killed and 30 others were hospitalized as a result of Tuesday night's leak, which also released a vapor cloud.

The Harris County medical examiner's office identified the men who were killed as Dustin Day and Shawn Kuhleman.

The civil claim was filed Thursday in Harris County by plaintiff Mike Lopez. It also alleges the company did not properly train its employees and contractors, failed to provide adequate safety equipment and did not perform sufficient maintenance.

Lopez, who was working in the facility when the leak occurred about 7:35 p.m. Tuesday, said in the lawsuit he had to 'flee for his life' when 100,000 pounds of acetic acid spewed out of a burst cap on a pressurized line. He suffered severe mental distress as well as physical injuries all over his body and might be disfigured as a result, the claim says.

'Plant explosions cause some of the most horrific industrial injuries we encounter, and they are often exacerbated by injuries workers sustain while trying to flee to safety,' said Kurt Arnold, an attorney representing Lopez.

The acid that was released burns skin and is toxic when inhaled. It was also mixed with other chemical compounds that are linked to causing fluid buildup in the lungs.

Arnold said the discovery process in the lawsuit will allow the attorney to investigate what led to the deadly event and how to prevent it from happening again.

The defendants named in the suit include the Lyondell Chemical Co., as well as several subsidiaries of the company.

The lawsuit seeks $1 million in damages from the defendants and a jury trial.

Officials with LyondellBasell were not immediately available for comment.

A spokesperson for the Netherlands-based company said Wednesday: 'We are keeping the families and loved ones of the injured in our thoughts, and our prayers go out to them.'

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