Residents of the Bay Area are sure to remember the Chevron oil refinery fire that occurred back in August of 2012. The diesel leak at California’s Richmond refinery led to a series of explosions and fires in the evening that caused thick black smoke to billow in the sky. Residents of the area were alerted to stay indoors to prevent breathing any potentially tainted air as winds carried smoke and pollutants throughout the neighborhoods east of the refinery and the Bay Area commute as a whole experienced major chaos.
Chevron Richmond Fire Lawsuit
Following the incident, approximately 15,000 residents made claims against Chevron after experiencing various symptoms including coughing, nausea, scratchy throats, and psychological trauma. Thousands more visited hospitals because of burning eyes and trouble breathing as the main ailments experienced and hoped to receive some sort of compensation for the effects of the fire on their health. Chevron established a claims line and stations in the community for those who sought compensation.
Since this time, a class action lawsuit against Chevron over the Richmond refinery fire has been gaining steam. The number of plaintiffs has expanded to 4,800 individuals who claim that Chevron failed to ensure that its refinery was operating safely before the fire. They also claim that Chevron failed to alert residents of the oil leak until several hours after initially finding it and due to their negligence, have experienced respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms since the fire.
Concurrently, investigations are still being made by several entities including federal, state and regional investigators. Earlier today, the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) decided to fine the company nearly $1 million – the highest amount allowed by state law – for their part in the fire last August. A spokesperson of the agency states that, “there were serious violations of safety standards” and the fine is justified by eleven “willful serious” and twelve serious” violations. The agency cited that following an inspection made in 2002, the company did not follow the recommendations of its own inspectors and scientists that ultimately was the source of the fire. Additionally, Chevron failed to follow its own emergency shutdown procedure when the leak was first noticed, exposing their workers to harm. Fortunately, no fatalities occurred because of the fire but the serious classification of the violations mean there was a very realistic possibility of worker injuries and death in the fire.
This $1 million fine stands alone from the nearly $10 million Chevron has stated it has paid out in compensation for the nearly 24,000 claims residents have made and hospital services used in Richmond. The majority of this money went to hospitals for medical exams and treatment immediately following the incident. Chevron has also stated it will be strengthening its reliability programs for piping and equipment, updating protocol on leak response and increasing employee training. However, much damage has already been done and Chevron’s response to this issue is unlikely to placate Richmond residents.
Representation for Victims Affected by Negligence
Companies have a responsibility to consumers and the communities they are in, to practice reasonable safety procedures. This includes ensuring that equipment is up to date and in good condition, and following of protocol in case of emergency situations. When companies fail to act accordingly to these responsibilities, we believe they should be accountable to their actions or lack of action. If you have been affected or have sustained damages due to negligence of an individual or company, contact our Bay Area injury attorney for help in acquiring due compensation.