June 4, 2008
By BRAD HEM
GALVESTON — BP lawyers Wednesday challenged the credibility of a man who claimed he was hurt in the March 2005 explosion at the company's Texas City refinery.
In the latest civil trial stemming from the blast, Luis Garcia, 26, is one of 10 workers suing BP for physical or emotional injuries they say resulted from the explosion that killed 15 people and injured scores more. Four of their wives also are plaintiffs.
At the time, he worked as a pipe fitter's assistant for J.E. Merit, a contractor at the refinery.
Plaintiffs' attorney Brent Coon and BP lawyer Kenneth Tekell went back and forth on the issue, presenting different medical and employment records.
Some showed doctors diagnosing back, neck and head injuries. Others showed Garcia's problems had subsided. Tekell also presented evidence that Garcia had stopped complaining of pain until he went to a doctor at his lawyer's recommendation.
On the witness stand, Garcia acknowledged the pain got better at times, particularly a few months after the blast when he'd gone to work selling cars and wasn't doing physically demanding work.
"I've had good days and bad days," Garcia said.
Tekell also questioned Garcia about a job application he filled out in late 2005 on which he said he had no injuries and had never been hurt on the job. Garcia admitted he lied to get the job.
"I told them what I had to to get a job," he said. "If you put any injury in there, they won't look at you. I needed a job."
Tekell suggested Garcia would shade the truth to get a job or another source of money. He is seeking monetary damages in the lawsuit.
Later, Garcia's wife, Rubi, testified her husband still has regular nightmares, especially when thunder vibrates windows in their bedroom.
Before the explosion, Luis Garcia was happy and energetic, she said.
Since, he has suffered depression and pain and gets angry more quickly.
She said she encouraged him to see a doctor when he was hurting, but he shrugged it off.
"He was still in pain, but he's a stubborn person," she said.
Tekell had previously noted that Garcia did not see a doctor for two years after going a few times in the first couple months after the blast.
Testimony ended Wednesday with process safety expert Mike Sawyer beginning to explain how he began investigating the blast shortly after it happened. He is expected to take the stand again when the trial resumes Monday.
BP has admitted blame for the explosion but challenges the extent of injuries and the $950 million in damages sought in the case.