Louisiana Record

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Injured worker's case Valero Refining-Meraux, nurse dismissed by court


By Takesha Thomas | May 31, 2019


NEW ORLEANS – A federal judge had dismissed a negligence lawsuit against a refinery after a worker there alleged the company was liable after he sustained a chemical burn.

On April 10, U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana granted partial summary judgment to Valero Refining-Meraux LLC and defendant Shawn Trahan's motion for summary judgment and granted both of the defendants' motions to dismiss.

According to the ruling, Larry O'Steen, an employee of Zachry Industrial Inc. who worked at the Valero refinery, failed to prove that Valero violated the Louisiana Worker's Compensation Act (LWCA) and failed to provide sufficient facts on his claim against Trahan. 

O'Steen sued Valero after he sustained a chemical burn while working at the refinery. According to the ruling, O'Steen was rinsing and draining an inactive vessel "when a chemical solution sprayed onto" him, "burning through his personal protective equipment and contacting his skin."

O'Steen argued that the company, along with two of its employees, "failed to properly inspect the vessel prior to issuing a permit allowing" him to start cleaning the vessel. Additionally, he alleged that Trahan, a nurse for Valero, failed to properly treat his injury and advised him not to seek outside treatment. 

O'Steen also alleged that as a result of his notifying the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of Valero's alleged mishandling of caustic chemicals, he was retaliated against by Valero. 

Valero moved for summary judgment citing that it was immune from the suit under the LWCA.

"Because plaintiff has failed to rebut the presumption that Valero is his statutory employer, Valero is entitled to summary judgment. As plaintiff’s statutory employer, Valero is immune from tort liability, and plaintiff’s negligence claims against Valero are dismissed," Milazzo wrote. 

Trahan also argued "identical grounds" in her motion for summary judgment, the ruling states, and Milazzo agreed she is entitled to tort immunity under the LWCA.

Milazzo also found that O'Steen failed to provide a sufficient claim for an intentional tort in his allegations against Trahan and that Valero allegedly retaliated against him under the Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Act (LEWA), dismissing those claims as well. 

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