“Black gold” is the nickname given to deposits of oil that are often found deep within the earth. Throughout much of the 20th Century, Americans, particularly in the western parts of the nation, were fixated on mining as much oil as they possibly could. Due to a growing demand for fossil fuels, the value of petroleum oil increased steadily as years passed. Leaders in the oil industry, who were once struggling to make a living, eventually became tycoons.
Since the glory days of oil drilling, oil fields have become fewer and farther in between. Alternatives to oil and natural gas have had a detrimental effect on the industry, yet there is still a desperate need that people will pay handsomely for. Just look at your local gas pump, and you’ll see the truth of that. As an employee in the business, however, there are many risks that are taken on a daily basis. Accidents can occur that maim or kill workers who are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sadly, 38-year-old Garland Kelley was one of these unlucky few. According to the Houston Press, Mr. Kelley was a father of two who worked at the Professional Directional Enterprises oilfield in Conroe, Texas. On July 30, 2011, he was working. Suddenly, a lithium thionyl chloride battery exploded near him and killed him. The burns from the explosion were too severe for him to overcome and he died before he reached a nearby hospital.
In the wake of their tragic loss, the Kelley family filed an explosion accident lawsuit against the owners of the oilfield. The family alleged in their complaint that the battery had been improperly heated to extend its life for use in an oilfield downhole-drilling tool and was known by the company to be defective. Professional Directional Enterprises responded to the complaint by placing the blame on Garland Kelley himself. They argued that he had broken protocol and company policy prior to the explosion at the oilfield. The Kelley family was represented in the case by Attorney Tony Buzbee.
After a day of deliberation, a Houston jury awarded Mrs. Kelley and her children with $29 million in wrongful death damages.