Woman blames Top Drilling, others for 20-year-old husband’s death

By From staff reports | Dec 8, 2017

CLARKSBURG – A woman is suing Top Drilling Corporation and others after she claims her 20-year-old husband died while measuring the contents of a storage tank.

CLARKSBURG – A woman is suing Top Drilling Corporation and others after she claims her 20-year-old husband died while measuring the contents of a storage tank.

Brian Haught; D&J Investments; David E. Bowyer; Rockford Leasing and Management; Jackson L. Smith; C&J Well Services; George Edwin Balis; Chad Cobun; Miller Supply of W.Va.; Tom Nickoles; Battles Energy Corp.; National Insurance Company; and Rockford Energy were also named as defendants in the suit.

On Dec. 17, 2015, Aaron Michael Flanigan died due to his exposure to hydrocarbon gases while working on a piece of equipment that was integral to a well site’s operation, according to an amended complaint filed Nov. 20 in Harrison Circuit Court.

Latoya J. Flanigan says Aaron Flanigan was ordered to “gauge” or measure a storage tank’s contents every other hour and was working alone at the well site while doing so.

Aaron Flanigan was provided no safety training, nor was he provided personal protective equipment to carry out the task of gauging the tank contents every other hour, according to the suit.

Latoya Flanigan claims the defendants failed to perform a safety assessment to evaluate whether the storage tank was a confined space and did not classify it as permit required confined space.

The storage tank was also not equipped with certain engineering tools that may have decreased Aaron Flanigan’s exposure to hydrocarbon gases and vapors, according to the suit.

Latoya Flanigan claims Nickoles discovered Aaron Flanigan’s lifeless body slumped over the tank with both of his arms within the thief hatch at approximately 8 p.m. and he observed a yellow substance around his nose and mouth.

The defendants knew that when Aaron Flanigan opened the thief hatch on top of the storage tank that his breathing zone was directly above the thief hatch and that when the thief hatch is opened, chemicals and hydrocarbon gases spurt out in a dense plume, according to the suit.

Latoya Flanigan claims the defendants also knew that manual tank gauging presents significant hazards to laborers, but they still directed Aaron Flanigan to expose himself to the extremely unsafe working condition that posed a high probability of serious injury or death.

The defendants failed to provide a safe workplace and were negligent, according to the suit.

Latoya Flanigan is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is being represented by Samuel D. Madia and Joseph F. Shaffer of Shaffer Madia Law.

Harrison Circuit Court case number: 17-C-350

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