Atlas Energy Not Liable in PA Rig Worker’s Death

Gavel-falling.jpgThis is an important story for both drillers and rig workers, potentially answering the question of who can and can’t be sued if something goes wrong when drilling a well. In 2006 Atlas Resources leased land in Greene County, PA to drill shale wells. In 2007 Atlas hired Gene D. Yost & Son, Inc. to drill wells for Atlas, including on the land leased in Greene County. Yost was the subcontractor, employing people to do the work using Yost’s equipment. As workers were removing drill pipe, preparing to shut in the well, there was an accident which appears to be operator error. One man, Rock A. Doman, was killed. The Doman family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Atlas Energy for negligence. After years of litigation and court findings, an appeals court ruled last week that Atlas is, in fact, a “statutory employer” under PA law, meaning they are immune from such lawsuits. That is, because Atlas hired another company for that company’s services, they (Atlas) cannot be held responsible for what the company they hired theoretically did or did not do. In this case, Yost’s “negligence” (if indeed there was any negligence) is not transferable to Atlas…

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