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Louisiana Jury Awards Oil Company Employee $43 Million

Posted by Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 25, 2001 12:00 AM EST
Category: In The Workplace
Tags: Workplace Injuries, Mining and Oil Field Accidents

A Federal jury in Louisiana awarded Seth Becker, a 24-year-old amputee, $43 million for injuries he sustained while working offshore for Baker Oil Tools. Becker lost both of his legs below the knees in a June 1997 accident and is expected to need amputations above the knees due to a bone infection. Following testimony that Becker's lifetime medical expenses may exceed $10 million and that he suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, the jury only took two hours to reach a unanimous verdict. The jury awarded $3,056,000 for past and future lost wages, $11 million for past and future physical pain and suffering, $11 million for past and future mental anguish and $7 million for disfigurement.

At the time of the accident, Becker was working with Baker Oil Tools as a summer intern. He hoped to win a permanent position with the company after graduating from Montana Technical College. He was injured while disconnecting a hose on a company boat. The hose jerked away from the boat and crushed his legs. An expert witness testified that a safety device could have prevented the injuries if the Baker crew had deployed it properly.

Following the accident, Becker returned to school and graduated with degrees in petroleum engineering and mechanical engineering. He had difficulty completing his school work and attributed his success to the support of his classmates and professors.

During the trial, jurors were shown a video of Becker going through the daily rituals of putting on his artificial limbs and cleaning his wounds.

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