WHEELING – An Ohio County judge has approved an $18 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit arising from an explosion in Tyler County in 2013.
Last month, an order approving settlement was filed in Ohio Circuit Court by Circuit Judge David J. Sims, approving the $18 million settlement to Karen S. Phipps, who was the executrix of Bruce A. Phipps’ estate.
The lawsuit was filed after Bruce Phipps died as a result of the April 11, 2013, explosion at Twin Hickory Station in Tyler County.
The flash fire/explosion occurred at approximately 7 p.m., while Bruce Phipps was at the Twin Hickory Station and he was unable to escape due to the lack of appropriate signage on the exits in the fencing at the site.
Bruce Phipps was burned horribly and suffered terribly as a result of the flash fire and ultimately died from thermal burns the following day at West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh.
The lawsuit alleged that the negligence of several companies who were involved in operating the Eureka-Hunter Pipeline LLC Twin Hickory pig launching and receiving station caused the explosion that led to Phipps' death.
Phipps was survived by his widow, Karen Phipps, who initiated the lawsuit on behalf of the Estate, as well as a daughter, two grandchildren and three siblings.
The settlement will be distributed to Karen Phipps, who will receive $1 million; Laura Douglas, who will receive $1.5 million; Max Phipps, who will receive $190,000; Patricia Sue Noel, who will receive $190,000; Marjorie Hall, who will receive $190,000; and Bordas & Bordas, which will receive $7.2 million and $188,644.13.
The remaining $7,541,355.90 will be maintained by Bordas & Bordas in their trust account to satisfy any expenses previously incurred and not yet paid and/or to be incurred in connection with the consummation of the settlement reached by the parties.
On Dec. 8, Bordas & Bordas will issue a check to Karen Phipps for the balance of the settlement funds remaining in their trust account after payment of any additional expenses relating to the matter.
“This fine man who died as a result of the significant burns received over most of his body suffered in a way that no person should be forced to suffer,” said Scott Blass, a partner at Bordas & Bordas, who served as lead counsel in the case. “As a result, this family will forever be without a husband, a dad and a grandfather.
Blass said the most tragic part of the very sad scenario is that it could have been avoided if the defendants would have conducted their operations in a safe and reasonable manner.
“Although this settlement will not bring Bruce back, we are hopeful that it will cause companies to think twice before putting workers in harm's way when conducting their operations throughout the Tri-State region,” he said.
In addition to Eureka-Hunter Pipeline LLC, other defendants in the case included Triad Hunter LLC; Transtex Hunter LLC; Magnum Hunter Resources Corporation; Apex Pipeline Services Inc.; Exterran Energy Solutions LP; and Western Oilfields Supply Company Inc., which is doing business as Rain For Rent.
The settlement is believed to be one of the largest, if not the largest, settlements in the history of Ohio County on behalf of a single family, according to a Bordas & Bordas press release.
Ohio Circuit Court case number: 14-C-41