May 22, 2008
By BRAD HEM
The latest personal injury trial related to the 2005 explosion at BP's Texas City refinery reached the courtroom today, and lawyers for injured workers began jury selection by questioning members of a panel about potential biases.
Plaintiffs' attorney Lance Lubel spent the morning asking the 200 potential jurors basic questions about whether they ever worked for BP, owned stock in the company or felt or saw the blast when it happened.
Several in the pool expressed outrage that someone could sue a company for mental anguish. Others said they would never award punitive damages regardless of the facts in the case.
"Everybody has mental anguish, but do they deserve money for it? No. Never." said one potential juror.
A vast majority of blast-related cases have settled. Two other batches have gone to trial, but each time the sides settled before a jury got the case.
It was also revealed during a hearing earlier in the morning that former Texas City refinery manager Don Parus no longer works for BP. He retired on Jan. 1, according to a BP spokesman.
The head of the refinery at the time of the blast, Parus had been on paid leave from the company for nearly three years. He had been named as a defendant in some previous lawsuits but was not named in this case. His name came up because the plaintiffs lawyers tried to serve him a subpoena Wednesday, but he failed to answer the door, attorney Brent Coon said.
Parus opened his door for a FedEx delivery, but stayed away from the process server, Coon said.