Family of killed pickup rider gets $281M

By Guillermo Contreras
San Antonio Express-News

A Dimmitt County jury has awarded $281 million to the family of a man killed when he was struck by a drive shaft that broke off a truck involved in activity in the Eagle Ford Shale.

The large verdict came late Thursday after a trial in which the family of Carlos Aguilar, an Army veteran who was in his 30s, had sued Heckmann Water Resources and its employee Ruben Osorio Hernandez.

The lawsuit said the incident happened May 29, 2012, when Osorio was driving a Heckmann tractor-trailer on FM 133 in Dimmitt County and the drive shaft broke off from under the truck. The part plowed through the windshield of a pickup that Aguilar was a passenger in, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleged that the drive shaft broke because the defendants did not properly maintain the tractor-trailer.

The jury found Heckmann negligent, but not Osorio. Besides damages for Aguilar’s children, the verdict includes $100 million in punitive damages against the company.

“I’m proud to have obtained one of the largest verdicts in the history of Texas and a full measure of justice for the family,” said the plaintiff’s lawyer, Ronald Rodriguez of Laredo. “The verdict will make the roads safer throughout South Texas and will enhance the quality of life for all families.”

Rodriguez said Heckmann is insured and that he did not know if the company planned to appeal.

Messages seeking comment were left Saturday for Heckmann’s lawyer, Rick Reyna of San Antonio. Attempts were unsuccessful Saturday to reach officials with Heckmann, which has offices in Pleasanton, and its parent company, Nuverra Environmental Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz.