Jury returns $20.2M verdict in pipe welder’s death

HOUSTON — A Harris County jury has returned a $20.2 million verdict against Oiltanking Partners after finding the company negligent in connection with an explosion that killed a welder at its Channelview plant last year.

Javier Delgado, 47, a contractor for Houston-based L-Con Inc., had worked as a welder for most of his life and had annual income of $113,000 at the time he was killed in June 2012, said Robert Kwok, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs including Delgado’s survivors and other welders s injured in the incident.

The jury found Monday that the  Houston-based midstream company failed to ensure that one of its pipes was free of hazardous materials before  Delgado worked on it the morning of June 2, 2012.

Oiltanking said in a statement that it is evaluating options and believes it will have “a strong basis to appeal any judgment rendered in accordance with the verdict.”

“We do not believe the merits of the case support the decision reached,” Oiltanking said. “While the accident was unfortunate, we firmly stand by our position in the case.”

Oiltanking, which has most of its terminal, storage and pipeline assets on the Gulf Coast, said it believes its insurance coverage will prevent it from suffering significant financial losses.

Kwok said appeals of such jury verdicts are typical, and that the plaintiffs soon will present a proposed final judgment to State District Judge R.K Sandill, who presided over the five-week trial and has set a hearing for Nov. 22 .

Oiltanking Partners’ units fell 65 cents to $61.90 in New York Stock Exchange trading Tuesday.