Two oil drilling companies named in lawsuit arising out of death in Montana’s Bakken oilfield

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by Charles Miller

Kyle Winter died from chest and abdominal injuries after he was crushed by a set of power tongs while working on a drilling rig in Montana’s Bakken oilfield in January 2013. He was 22.

The rig was owned by Pioneer Drilling Services and the well site was owned by Whiting Petroleum. Kyle’s father has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Montana against both Pioneer Drilling and Whiting Petroleum. The lawsuit alleges that the companies were negligent and failed to protect subcontractors and employees on the job site, including Kyle Winter.

Winter was installing pipe using a piece of equipment called power tongs when the accident occurred. Tongs are used to twist the pipe into place at a freshly drilled oil well. According to the lawsuit, the tongs being used that day by Winter and his fellow Heller Casing employees were not securely fastened. Rather, the suit alleges, the tongs the Heller Casing employees were using that day, which weighed at least 1,200 pounds, hung loosely on three open hooks and the unstable connection was reinforced with common electrical tape. Temperatures dropped to a frigid 20 below zero that Friday, rendering the feeble tape even more “brittle and unreliable,” according to the suit. The tongs detached from the cable and fell on Winter.

According to the lawsuit, “prudent drillers use a more secure means of fastening the power tongs to the cable so that, even if tension was reduced, the power tongs could not fall to the rig floor.” The suit alleges that Winter and others who worked for Heller Casing were not allowed to use a more secure set of power tongs that were on site.

Oil Field Accident Lawsuits

Oil field accident lawsuits can serve several valuable purposes. Most importantly, they allow the victims and their families to recover financial damages to compensate for their medical bills, loss of income, pain, suffering and mental anguish. Such lawsuits also serve to hold drilling companies accountable for their gross negligence and willful violation of laws and regulations. Lastly, these lawsuits serve as a deterrent to drilling companies tempted in the future to cut corners to save time and money.

Fighting for justice against a well-funded oil company can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive. To even the playing field, victims need experienced, aggressive attorneys who will protect them in their time of need and force the defendants and their insurers to take responsibility for their actions. Oil field injury and death lawsuits can be expensive. To properly prepare a case, an attorney may need to hire expert witnesses concerning drilling and rig procedures and safety practices, applicable state and federal regulations, industrial accident reconstruction and life care planning.

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, our seasoned litigators have the experience to take even the most complex situation and explain it in terms a jury can understand.

Several of our trial lawyers are board certified* and many of them have been selected as Super Lawyers in the State of Texas for several years in a row.** Our firm is AV rated, the highest legal and ethical ranking available from the leasing law firm ranking service, Martindale-Hubbell. We also have the financial resources to help our clients stand toe-to-toe with anyone, including the biggest corporations in the world.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has a track record of proven success. Our firm has secured verdicts and settlements for our clients totaling more than $200 million.

If you or a loved one has been injured or if you have lost someone in an oil field accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering. Contact us today by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001 or by following the link to our website contact form to receive a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.

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Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

** Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.