Halliburton named as defendant in wrongful death suit

By Audrey Holsclaw | Jul 22, 2008

CHARLESTON -- A Roane County man has filed a lawsuit against Halliburton Energy Services after his son was killed on the job.

Gary Nicholson was a resident of Roane County. On Feb. 8, he was killed in a commercial vehicle crash. Gary was employed as a commercial vehicle driver for Halliburton, whose employment advertisements read, "We're one of the world's largest and most safety-conscious providers of oil field services."

Prior to his death, Nicholson had limited experience driving commercial vehicles and even more limited experience training and mentoring new Halliburton employees to drive such vehicles, according to the complaint filed July 15.

Nicholson and his co-workers complained to Halliburton management about its lack of training for new drivers, and they knew Halliburton had established policies prohibiting inexperienced drivers from training new drivers, the suit states.

Halliburton also had policies in place for training to be conducted by the Center of Transportation Safety, but trainers, such as Nicholson, were not provided with any training. The routes utilized by trainers were not evaluated with regards to the experience level of new commercial drivers, according to the complaint.

On Feb. 7, Nicholson was ordered to train co-worker Scott Burgess.

Filed by Jason Stemple and L. David Duffield of the Huntington firm of Duffield & Lovejoy, the suit states that on Feb. 8, Nicholson, following supervisory orders, began training Burgess in a 2002 Kenworth commercial vehicle.

According to the West Virginia Uniform Traffic Crash report, the vehicle was loaded with chemicals. Burgess drove the vehicle too quickly on the curving hillside roads of Clay County and lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle overturned and collided with a guardrail.

Nicholson died as a result of the injuries from that accident.

A Google search reveals 19,700 hits for the phrase "Halliburton wrongful death," which mostly deal with deaths in Iraq.

But for Gary's father Ed Nicholson, that phrase hits much closer to home.

Ed Nicholson was appointed as administrator of his son's estate, and he believes Halliburton's unsafe work practices and violations of known safety standards caused his son's death, including insufficient training on proper techniques of mountain driving, emergency response, brake failure, runaway ramps, over-steering responses, blow steer tires, and hazard avoidance measures.

Stemple and Duffield believe discovery will reveal that, in fact, Halliburton knowingly and intentionally exposed Nicholson to unsafe working conditions.

The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia because of diversity of citizenship and the amount in controversy. Halliburton's principle place of business is Houston, but it is a Delaware corporation and conducts business in Clay County. Ed Nicholson also resides in Roane County residents.

Ed, on behalf of his infant granddaughter Mahiley, is seeking a trial by jury to award damages for sorrow; mental anguish; solace; loss of society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, and advice; loss of future earnings, services, protection, care, and assistance; medical expenses; funeral expenses; attorney fees; and court costs. If awarded, the sum would be well over $75,000.

More News

The Record Network