A Houston jury found Exterran Energy Solutions LP grossly negligent Tuesday in the 2007 death of a Mineral Wells man killed in a natural gas processing plant explosion in Cleburne and awarded his family $82.5 million in damages.
Joshua Wade Petrie, 27, employed at the time as a plant operator by Fort Worth-based Quicksilver Resources Inc, died of injuries received when a hot oil heater exploded and he was thrown during the blast.
The jury found Houston-based Exterran Energy Solutions, then Hanover Compression LP, grossly negligent in the death of Petrie for failure to properly construct the heater and ensure it was up to industry safety standards. They also found Petrie not to have been negligent in
Petrie, a 1998 graduate of Millsap High School who played all-state half-back and defensive back for the Bulldogs and served in the Navy, left behind a wife, two young daughters and a son born four months after his death, according to his father, Mark Petrie.
Attorney Robert Ammons said he hopes the verdict "brings honor to the life of a fine man that was lost and sets a precedent to the value of life in Houston and across the State of Texas."
The verdict is believed to be record setting for a single death in the 152nd District Court in Harris County, according to Ammons.
Ammons said he does not believe there will be an appeal of the jury's decision in the wrongful death lawsuit.
"It's been a very tough three years," Mark Petrie said. "Our intent is this will never happen to another young man ... unfortunately we had to go to litigation to make them do the right thing."
"The company claiming [Petrie] caused it was very bothersome," Ammons said.
Knowing his son's name has been cleared is a relief, Mark Petrie said.
"He was a people person, a terrific father," Petrie said about his son.
Joshua Petrie was an avid hunter and loved spending time with his wife and children, Mark Petrie said.
"Everybody who knew him, loved him," Petrie said.
The family was present for the trial Monday and Tuesday, according to Ammons.
"They were relieved that justice was finally obtained," Ammons said. "They feel the verdict brings honor to the life of Josh Petrie."
According to information provided by Ammons, when Quicksilver purchased the plant from Hanover in 2005, they agreed to have Hanover relocate the plant from Oklahoma to the Cleburne location and manage installation of the plant and identify and make recommendations regarding safety risks.
Both Hanover and Quicksilver were aware in 2005 that the hot oil heater did not meet industry standards for mechanisms to keep gas accumulation away from burners, according to the prosecution.
Ammons argued that Hanover did not want to incur additional cost to meet the safety standards which are believed would have prevented the explosion and Petrie's death in May 2007.
Quicksilver argued that Hanover failed to provide a properly refurbished heater as agreed in the contract.
The six-man, six-woman jury found Hanover 90 percent negligent and Quicksilver 10 percent responsible in Petrie's death, according to Ammons, though only Hanover is responsible for the cost of damages.
His wife, Candee Petrie, was awarded $10 million and each of Petrie's children, now ages 2, 5 and 7 years old, were awarded $15 million in actual damages for past and future financial loss, companionship loss and mental anguish. His father was also named in the suit and received $2.5 million for mental anguish and loss of companionship.
The jury also awarded a total of $25 million in exemplary, or punishment damages to Petrie's widow and children because Hanover was found to be grossly negligent in the death.
Ammons said he hopes a message is sent to the plant owners and companies who engineer the equipment to meet their agreements and follow industry safety standards.
"If they choose to cut corners on safety, it's going to be very expensive for them," Ammons said.