Bradley & Steele secured a big win on Monday, August 3, 2020 for their clients, the Mays family, as well as workers in the oil and gas industry along the Louisiana coast. The Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2.1 million dollar jury verdict secured by Jill Pierce and Lance Bradley of Bradley & Steele, and Jane Leger of the Ferguson Law Firm.
Mr. Mays was killed on a platform in Louisiana state waters in October of 2014 when a valve stem and cap blasted off and struck him in the head. Mr. Mays’ family was told he was killed because he removed the “wrong” part of the valve. The Mays family knew Mr. Mays had a reputation as a skillful and safe valve technician and knew there was more to the story than they were being told. So they hired the Bradley & Steele Law Firm to investigate to determine what really happened. During litigation it was discovered that the valve was wrapped in a protective coating that obscured the identity of the manufacturer of the valve. It was also discovered that in its Annual Valve Inspection records, Chevron had misidentified the valve for 15 years. Had the valve been the type represented in Chevron’s records, the valve stem would not have been ejected when the crew removed the part.
Chevron claimed it was immune from suit as the “statutory employer” of Mr. Mays, based on a Louisiana state law defense. However, because Bradley & Steele proved that there was a “substantial nexus” between Mr. Mays’ death and Chevron’s operations conducted on the Outer Continental Shelf for the purpose of extracting and transporting natural resources, federal law applied and Chevron did not get the benefit of the Louisiana state law defense.
This was a hard-fought case from the beginning. The trial court judge originally threw the case out on a Motion for Summary Judgment in February of 2016. Ms. Pierce immediately filed a Motion for Reconsideration asking the court to reconsider its ruling and further explained the evidence. An agonizing 11 months later, the trial court judge reversed her decision and reinstated the Mays’ family case. The trial court judge said she had only reversed her decisions three times during her career.
The hard work of Ms. Pierce, Mr. Bradley and Ms. Leger paid off on Monday when the Federal 5th Circuit upheld the jury’s verdict against Chevron.