Drilling & Mining

Oilfield And Mining Accidents

Our experience in litigating drilling rig accidents, mining accidents and excavation accidents is extensive, and includes the following:

  • Drilling rig fatalities and catastrophic injuries
  • Well tank explosions
  • Well site fires and blowouts
  • Grader and scraper rollovers
  • ROPS and FOPS litigation
  • Cable accidents
  • Mine wall collapse accidents
  • Road shoulder collapse accidents
  • Cab injuries (restraint system design defects)
  • Crane accidents (two-block, load impact and tip-over accidents)
  • Side-track derailment accidents

To successfully litigate a catastrophic injury accident that takes place at a drilling or mining operation, a tank storage facility, or involving heavy equipment, it is imperative to have a working knowledge of the operations, regulations and standards, field jargon and the personality traits of supervisors and workers in these high-risk environments. We are familiar with applicable OSHA regulations governing drilling and mining activities. We often work with experts equally familiar with these subjects.

This type of experience can only be gained by handling a large number of these cases, as we have, in order to understand how to properly deal with witnesses, experts and theories of comparative fault that often drive these complex claims. In addition, a strong knowledge of physics, engineering, hydraulics and metallurgy is often crucial, and we excel in all of these areas based upon our extensive litigation history involving drilling and mining accidents.

Oilfield And Mining Accident Investigation

We are frequently called upon to appear in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic accident in order to conduct a privileged investigation as counsel for a party. In this capacity, we direct the activities of investigative specialists, forensic engineers, corporate employees and field investigators. We also assist in the completion of regulatory investigations, including OSHA investigations and we have represented parties in a number of OSHA hearings and citation proceedings. We understand the procedures and terminology used in drilling operations, where it is customary for several different types of contractors to work together with very little written guidance and the risk of serious injury is ever present.

The financial pressures to complete a drilling operation quickly, coupled with the complexity, mass and power of the equipment involved, create an environment in which injury and death occur all too often. The root cause of such events, however, is often not what may appear at first glance. Therefore, the successful litigation of oilfield accidents requires a familiarity with practices, procedures and regulations, as well as the contents of the contracts that define the scope of contractor responsibility on the well site. Safety practices can be followed to the letter and injury can still result from unforeseen events. The human factor always plays a role in the understanding of these events. Bringing that understanding to a judge or jury requires the broad depth of oilfield litigation expertise we have developed during our years of working in this field.

Contractual Indemnity Claims

A common legal issue that arises in connection with drilling accidents is whether owners, operators, drillers and others owe one another a defense or indemnity under the terms of the contracts they have entered. We are familiar with the litigation of these issues under IADC drilling contracts, including commonly modified versions of these documents. We are also extensively familiar with insurance coverage issues that can arise under Additional Insured endorsements and contractual insuring obligations for defense and indemnity.

Heavy Equipment Claims

We have litigated claims involving the engineering and design of graders, scrapers, loaders, cranes and trenching equipment. We have made models of hydraulic assemblies for use in court, and we’ve utilized computer simulations to depict how complex equipment performs and fails. In one case, we even used our own aircraft to take arial photos of a strip mine where a fatality occurred in order to build a unique trial exhibit to show the path of several pieces of equipment that converged at the location of the accident within the mine.

Our litigation experience in this area includes injuries and deaths sustained by operators climbing into and out of graders and scrapers, product liability claims related to hand-hold and foot-plate design, ladder design, glass windshield design, the ergonomics of the controls of heavy equipment, rollover protection systems (ROPS), falling object protection systems (FOPS), crane load drops, crane tip-overs and warning device design claims on various items of heavy equipment, including back-up warning horns, two-block alarms on cranes and cable tension monitoring software. We’ve handled cases involving rail car derailments, and even a crane accident related to the clean-up of a train accident.

We made law in Wyoming

In a case of first impression, the Wyoming Supreme Court found that Godfrey’s client owned overriding royalty interests despite language in last will and testament.

We made law in Texas

In a case involving a drilling fatality, we won an appeal to the Texas Court of Appeals on an issue concerning state
court jurisdiction.