$29 Million Awarded to Conroe Family in Wrongfu...

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$29 Million Awarded to Conroe Family in Wrongful Death Case

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.”