Buddy Trahan, a Transocean Ltd. rig supervisor who barely survived the BP Plc Deepwater Horizon rig disaster, asked a federal judge to free his stalled personal-injury lawsuit from the oil-spill litigation set for trial in New Orleans on Feb. 27.
“Like a beleaguered passenger who fruitlessly waits for a streetcar that will not come, Buddy Trahan has waited and waited and waited some more” for his case to be returned to state court or set for trial in the New Orleans federal court, Lance Lubel, Trahan’s lawyer, said today in court papers. “In sheer exhaustion from his torturous ordeal, he respectfully -- but stridently -- requests that the court reopen the only avenue of escape and grant him the ride he needs and deserves.”
Trahan is one of about a dozen Transocean employees who haven’t settled death and injury claims resulting from the Gulf of Mexico rig explosion that killed 11 workers, according to lawyers representing the employees.
His suit against BP shouldn’t have been caught up in the other spill litigation and should be sent to a Texas court for a speedy trial, according to the filing in the court of U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.
The judge hasn’t ruled on earlier similar requests by Trahan and families of other workers injured and killed on the rig. They are trying to untangle their cases from the thousands of economic-injury claims consolidated for pretrial processing.
Injury Cases Later
Barbier has said he’ll address Deepwater Horizon injury and death claims at some point after the spill trial set to begin next week. The nonjury trial is to determine the relative fault of BP, Transocean and other contractors in the offshore project.
“I keep getting shuffled to the bottom of the pile,” Trahan said Feb. 18 in an interview. “They need to take me out of the bottom of the pile and let me have my day in court. It won’t make things right, but it’ll let me turn this chapter.”
Trahan, 44, oversaw rig equipment, maintenance and long-term repairs for six Transocean deep-water rigs in the Gulf before the April 20, 2010, explosion that caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Trahan, one of four Transocean and BP senior executives on a VIP visit to the Deepwater Horizon the day of the blast, may be the most seriously injured survivor.
The first explosion hurled Trahan 30 feet through a wall, burning most of the clothes off his back in an instant, he said. With both legs broken, his neck pierced by flying metal and his left knee shattered, Trahan said, he almost bled to death.
Fellow Workers’ Help
Fellow workers dug him from the rubble and shoved him onto a stretcher into one of the rig’s two lifeboats. As he drifted in and out of consciousness, he said, people repeatedly roused him and urged him to stay alive in spite of what he called “blackout pain.”
Since then, Trahan has endured nine surgical operations, including one to replace 13 metal pins and plates in his knee after an infection. He has had to relearn to walk several times, and relaxation eludes him, he said.
“You can’t turn on the TV and not see explosions, sirens,” he said. “I can’t get away from it.”
Both eardrums burst in the explosion. He constantly hears what sounds like radio static.
“Even when I just want peace and quiet, I can never get that,” he said.
With sleep come nightmares. Trahan said he relives being on the blazing rig, strapped to the stretcher and momentarily abandoned while rescuers help another injured worker.
“I’m all alone again, and there’s this monstrous fire, and I can’t even crawl away from it because I’m strapped to this stretcher,” Trahan said. “And I’m knowing that my friends are in that fire.”
Transocean, which isn’t named in Trahan’s lawsuit, continues to pay his salary and medical bills, which he estimates at almost $2 million so far. BP has never apologized for his injuries or discussed his claim, he said.
“I see BP signs everywhere I go,” the lifelong oil industry worker said. BP’s advertisements proclaiming the company will do whatever it takes to “make things right” ring hollow for him.
“I want to see the people who made those decisions punished like I’m punished, and that’s never going to happen,” he said.
Scott Dean and Daren Beaudo, BP spokesmen; and Ellen Moskowitz, a company spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment on Trahan’s case.
“I feel betrayed, robbed, ashamed that I’m not strong enough to overcome this,” Trahan said. “I’ve lost my security. I don’t know who I am and what I’m going to do now. They can never make me whole.”
The spill case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, 2:10-md-02179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).