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The widow of a Brownsville man who was killed in a tanker truck explosion at the Port of Brownsville in 2006 reached an out-of-court settlement with one of the companies involved.
According to Marc Rosenthal, an Austin-based attorney who represents Live Lara Gutierrez, the widow of Juan Perez, the parties settled for a $3.2 million payment from RTW Properties L.P. to the widow and heirs of Perez.
In court documents filed in the 138th state District Court before Judge Arturo Cisneros Nelson, Rosenthal claimed that Perez suffered a wrongful death because of negligence.
The lawsuit named RTW and 14 other defendants.
Perez, a truck driver, died on Feb. 27, 2006, when a tanker truck that was being loaded with motor oil at the RTW Terminal on Anchor Road at the Port of Brownsville exploded. Perez was thrown off the truck and died of his injuries.
According to court documents, the case was set for a jury trial to begin Dec. 6. But the parties met and settled the matter out of court, Rosenthal said.
According to the attorney, information that surfaced during the discovery process presented a strong case that twisted RTW’s arm into settling rather than letting the matter be decided by a jury.
Court documents state that on the day of the explosion, the tanker had a strong smell of gasoline but was filled with the oil-based compound.
According to Rosenthal, the truck had gasoline fumes, which run the risk of igniting during the filling process by static electricity. A normal procedure to avoid that is to ground the tanker to prevent any sparks from lighting the fumes; that wasn’t done with the tanker Perez drove, he said.
"No amount of money can replace a good man," Rosenthal. "This is a sizable amount of money that will provide a comfortable living for his widow and two children. The money will allow the children to go to college and provide for the needs of one of them who has a medical condition."
Gutierrez couldn’t be reached for comment and calls to RTW Properties L.P. were not returned.*
*Courtesy of The Brownsville Herald.