Court Decides Texas Company Not Guilty of Gross Negligence

July 12, 2005 ( - The Texas Supreme Court has denied a motion for rehearing a trial, finding that Diamond Shamrock Refining Co. L.P. was not guilty of gross negligence resulting in the death of one of its employees, according to the San Antonio Express News.

“What separates ordinary negligence from gross negligence is the defendant’s state of mind; in other words, the plaintiff must show that the defendant knew about the peril, but his acts or omissions demonstrate that he did not care,” Justice Nathan Hecht wrote in his opinion for the court, the  San Antonio newspaper reported.

>A 1996 gas compressor explosion killed employee Charles Hall.   His widow, Donna Hall, sued the company and three related entities for wrongful death, according to news reports.   A jury found the company was grossly negligent and fined it with damages of $42.5 million, which the trial court reduced to $200,000.

An appeals court reversed the ruling and both parties were granted a petition for review.

The recent opinion supports the Supreme Court’s earlier findings that the company’s efforts to protect against accidents were lacking, but that the company was not unconcerned.   In January, the Texas Supreme Court said there was no evidence that the company was consciously indifferent to the risk of explosion, and said Hall was not entitled to any monetary award, according to the San Antonio paper.