The family of an oilfield man who was killed on the job by an industrial battery explosion in Conroe in July 2011 has been awarded $29 million by a Houston jury, legal representatives for the family announced.
Garland “Rickie” Kelley, 38, died after a lithium-thionyl chloride battery exploded at a Professional Directional Enterprises, Inc. facility in Montgomery County. Shrapnel from the exploding battery struck Kelley in the back, and he was taken to a nearby medical facility, where he died July 30 as a result of his injury.
After a day of deliberations, the Harris County state court jury awarded $4 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages late Tuesday. “This verdict should send a message to smaller oil and gas operators that the practice of reheating oilfield tool batteries must stop,” attorney Tony Buzbee said in a statement. “The death of Rickie Kelley was absolutely preventable.”
According to OSHA records, Kelley was testing a battery used for power drilling tools in oil fields and the battery exploded.
Kelley left behind a wife and three children.
According to the family’s legal representatives, Houston-based The Buzbee Law Firm and Woodlands-based The Law Office of Matthew J. Mussalli, PC, Kelley’s family alleged that “the battery was improperly heated to extend its life for use in an oilfield downhole-drilling tool and was known to be defective.”