Jury awards $4.1M to injured Rifle rig worker | PostIndependent.com

Jury awards $4.1M to injured Rifle rig worker

John ColsonPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado – A federal jury on Wednesday awarded $4.1 million to Louisiana resident Von Phathong, a former worker on a Rifle-area Encana gas drilling rig, for injuries the man suffered in 2005.The award, handed down in U.S. District Court in Denver, was against an Encana subcontractor, Tesco Corp. (US) based in Houston, Texas, which was operating the rig at the time.Tesco, according to its website, is a global company that designs, manufactures, sells and services drilling equipment, though it apparently also has a hand in operating drilling rigs.Encana Oil and Gas (USA), although found by the jury to be 10 percent liable for the accident, will not be required to pay any of the award because it was not named in the lawsuit.Tesco is expected to appeal the verdict, according to Phathong’s attorney, Michael Burg, of the Denver law firm Burg Simpson.”Despite its efforts to absolve itself of blame, Tesco has been rightfully held accountable for their improper acts,” Burg told the Post Independent on Thursday.Tesco’s attorney in the case, Richard Waltz of Denver, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.Phathong, now 42, was born in Laos and came to the U.S. at the age of 11. He had been working for Tesco for several years, Burg said.Phathong was working on a drilling rig in the Rifle area on Dec. 13, 2005, when an improperly connected drilling pipe section and other equipment broke loose and crushed him against the legs of the drilling derrick, according to a statement from the Burg Simpson law firm.Evidence in the case indicated that the supervisors on the rig “knew or should have known” that rig workers were being improperly ordered to connect two different sized drilling pipes, according to the statement.Burg told the Post Independent that the rig crew was using a piece of equipment known as a “crossover sub” that was not the correct size for the job. It was not threaded correctly to link together two pipes of different sizes, according to the Burg Simpson statement.The law firm’s statement also maintained that, at the time of the accident, “Tesco was in the process of selling its drilling business to Turnkey E&P Corporation,” also of Houston.The sale contracts, according to Burn Simpson, “were executed four hours after Mr. Phathong’s accident, but were to be retroactively effective to 12:01 a.m. on the day in question, three hours before Mr. Phathong was injured.””It’s pretty unbelievable that they would do that,” Burg said during a telephone interview. “This is one of the problems right now going on in America, that the giant corporations don’t want to be accountable for their actions.”Officials from Tesco’s Grand Junction office did not return calls for comment.Phathong currently is back home in Louisiana with his wife, Jennifer.Burg said Phathong suffered several spinal fractures and herniated cervical discs, as well as other injuries, and “basically is unemployable” due to pain and inability to move.jcolson@postindependent.com

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