WHEELING – A jury has ruled against a Harrison County man in his lawsuit that claimed a group of defendants has caused him harm by exposing him to fracking fluids.
Salvatore Bombardiere Sr. filed his lawsuit in 2011 in Harrison County Circuit Court against Schlumberger Technology Corp., Consol Energy, CNX Gas and SOS Staffing Services. The complaint also alleged he was fired in retaliation for becoming harmed by fracking fluids, and the case was removed to federal court.
A jury trial wrapped up March 7 in which it appears Schlumberger Technology was the lone remaining defendant. The jury found in favor of Schlumberger on the following question:
“Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence that a specific unsafe working condition existed in the plaintiff’s workplace which presented a high degree of risk and a strong probability of serious injury or death?”
Bombardiere’s lawsuit said he worked at two well sites on the Marcellus Shale owned and/or operated by Schlumberger and CNX in Waynesburg, Pa., beginning in February 2010.
While there, the two companies exposed him to chemicals that are dangerous to human life, it said. Bombardiere claimed he developed burns, blood dyscrasias, testicular deformity, testicular edema, respiratory compromise, an increased risk of cancer, psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Exposure to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” chemicals caused these health problems, the lawsuit said, adding that he was made to perform fracking-related services without adequate training and without adequate protective gear.
After informing SOS Staffing of his intent to file a Workers’ Compensation claim, SOS terminated his employment on March 11, 2010.
The lawsuit, filed 11 months later, claimed he handled open buckets and spray hoses without protective gear. It sought compensatory damages, medical monitoring and punitive damages.
Bombardiere’s attorneys were McKowen & Ford in Clarksburg; Napoli Bern Ripka & Associates in New York; Peter W. Thomas in Aspen, Colo.; and Frascona, Joiner, Goodman & Greenstein in Boulder, Colo.
The defendants removed the case to federal court in April 2011, arguing diversity jurisdiction and an amount in controversy above a $75,000 threshold.
Later in 2011, the defendants asked U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He denied the request on June 14, 2011.
Late in 2012, the defendants began filing their motions for summary judgment. Schlumberger claimed it was a “special employer” under the Wet Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act and was entitled to immunity under the act.
It also claimed the evidence was legally insufficient to demonstrate it could be held liable under the deliberate intent exception to employer immunity.
On Feb. 14, Bailey granted summary judgment to SOS Staffing, but denied Schlumberger’s motion.
Following the jury verdict, Bombardiere did not file any post-trial motions before an April 4 deadline, so judgment was entered April 16.
Schlumberger was represented by Ricklin Brown of Bailey & Glasser in Charleston, as well as Raymond Mullady, Sue Rosenthal and Mary Ann Mullaney of Blank Rome LLP.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at email@example.com.