Hurricane Leads to Flood of Claims

Class Action Law Suit, North America

Class action lawsuits against a petrochemical plant and a petroleum refinery alleged that hurricane flooding was exacerbated by ongoing project work and poor coordination between the two integrated facilities. Baker & O’Brien reviewed project plans and execution records to evaluate project management compared to industry best practice, and assessed the working relationship and level of coordination between the facilities. Our expert report provided opinions on project governance and the degree of coordination between the facilities, including the effectiveness of the site’s emergency response plan.

Two class action lawsuits followed hurricane-related flooding in the vicinity of two large industrial facilities: a petrochemical plant and a petroleum refinery. The facilities were highly integrated – they shared critical utility services such as electricity, cooling water, steam, nitrogen, instrument air, and fire water. Their high integration meant that if one facility had to shut down, it affected the other, and vice-versa. However, each facility had a different owner. Continuous close coordination was required to maintain a safe and consistent operation across both plants. Further complicating matters, the facility owned by the Respondent was undergoing a major capital expansion project when the hurricane hit.

The plaintiffs claimed the Respondent's project work and response to the hurricane exacerbated the flooding. Baker & O’Brien was asked to assess:

  • The Respondent’s management of the expansion project design and construction
  • The degree of coordination between the integrated facilities
  • The Respondent’s emergency response to the hurricane

We first reviewed project execution plans, procedures, and contemporaneous records to assess the Respondent’s project governance, oversight, and execution compared to best industry practice. We then assessed the working relationship between the facility owners by reviewing the site operating agreement and other documented evidence. We finally reviewed the integrated site’s emergency response plan to understand which party was responsible for coordinating response for severe weather emergencies such as a hurricane.

We submitted an expert report, after which the parties reached a settlement.

Cliff Moore

Senior Consultant

Petroleum Refining / Chemicals and Petrochemicals
Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) / Standard of Care / Expert Witness Testimony / Litigation
North America