Truck driver sues Range Resources over injury claims by Emily Petsko, May 8, 2015, Observer Reporter
A West Virginia truck driver is suing Range Resources over claims that company employees ordered him to keep working in wet clothes for hours after he was splashed with flowback water at a Buffalo Township well site.
Russell Evans of Triadelphia claimed he suffered chemical burns, blisters and rashes from the alleged incident May 21, 2013, at which time he was working for Equipment Transport LLC. The complaint was filed Wednesday in Allegheny County Court.
Evans was transporting “reused” water a distance of about five miles to a well site in Buffalo Township, according to the complaint. During his second trip to the well site that morning, he backed his truck up to a “sloppy pond” used to store reused frack water and noticed that water was leaking from the back hatch of his tanker truck.
He claimed he was doused with water when he attempted to stop the leak and was told by a Range employee the water would not harm him. He claimed he was ordered to stay on site until he was cleared to leave, which was about two hours later.
Range employees roped off and swept the area where the spill occurred and made no attempt to examine Evans or arrange for him to take a “chemical bath,” he alleged. He claimed an employee told him to “wash the water off at a nearby McDonald’s.”
“Due to the fact that Mr. Evans was told the reused water was harmless, he remained in his wet clothes for several hours while he drove back to Equipment Transport LLC’s terminal in Dallas Pike, West Virginia,” the complaint alleged. “In total, Mr. Evans remained in these clothes for over four hours.”
Evans said he went to MedExpress when he developed a rash and blisters and claimed that physicians told him he could not be treated without knowledge of the chemicals he may have been exposed to. The complaint alleges Range “kept the chemical makeup of the fracking fluid a secret.”
He claimed he also was refused medical care at an emergency room in Wheeling a week after the alleged incident because of his inability to name the constituents of the water. In addition to skin ailments, he claimed he suffered nausea, shortness of breath, indigestion, vertigo and headaches, as well as potentially permanent skin discoloration and permanent sensitivity to sunlight.
Evans’ wife, Karen Evans, also is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. She claims she suffered mental anguish and embarrassment and was deprived of the assistance and consortium of her husband.
Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the company is still reviewing the complaint. He said the components of all industry materials, including reuse water, are disclosed by law. “There are no secrets, especially when it comes to safety,” he said in an email. “Range’s commitment to safety is shared by the nearly 900 men and women who work here, and it’s ingrained in our culture. The single most important thing for us is making sure that every worker goes home safe at the end of their workday.” [Then why is Range refusing – for years – to release frac chemicals in a health harm lawsuit even after being ordered to by a judge?]
George M. Kontos, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said they stand by their allegations. “We certainly want to do all that we can to ensure that Range is held responsible for its actions in this case, and for misleading our client and the public about the harmful nature of this water,” Kontos said. The plaintiffs are seeking punitive damages in an amount in excess of the arbitration limit, which is $35,000 in Allegheny County. [Emphasis added]
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