Jury awards family of blast victim $82.5 million

A Harris County jury has awarded $82.5 million in damages to the family of Joshua Wade Petrie, a Mineral Wells resident who died of injuries suffered in a May 25, 2007, explosion at a natural gas processing plant in Hood County.

Exterran Energy Solutions L.P. of Houston, formerly Hanover Compression L.P., will be liable for the damages if the jury award is upheld.

Petrie, 27, was injured in the explosion of a device called a hot-oil treater. The plant is owned by Fort Worth-based Quicksilver Resources, a natural gas producer with properties in North Texas' Barnett Shale, the largest gas-producing area in the U.S.

Hanover engineered and built the plant. The jury reached its decision Monday in a lawsuit in the 152nd state District Court of Judge Robert Schaffer in Houston.

The jury found that Hanover was grossly negligent and 90 percent responsible for the accident that injured Petrie, who died at a Fort Worth hospital the next day.

The jury attributed 10 percent of the responsibility to Quicksilver but also concluded that the company was not guilty of gross negligence. Quicksilver is not liable for monetary damages because of the jury's decision and because the company provided workers' compensation insurance, said Houston attorney Rob Ammons, who represented the family. Petrie was a Quicksilver employee.

The jury awarded damages to Petrie's widow, Candee Petrie of Mineral Wells, and three minor children, including a son, Joshua Petrie Jr., born shortly after his father died.

Damages were awarded for financial loss, loss of companionship and mental anguish, as well as $25 million in exemplary damages, which the judge's instructions to the jury said include "any damage awarded as a penalty or by way of punishment" for wrongdoing.

Exterran officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

JACK Z. SMITH, 817-390-7724