On May 5, 2009, plaintiff Robert Earl Roye, 54, a chemical plant operator, was listing lock-out/tag-out needs in preparation for maintenance of a steam trap. The steam trap was under an overhead steam line that ran from a plant owned by D.B. Western Inc. – Texas, in La Porte, to a nearby plant shared by E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Co. and Roye’s employer. The steam trap had failed in the open position and was constantly discharging hot steam and hot condensate. Underneath this steam trap was a wooden pallet on the ground. According to Roye and unknown to him at the time, the ground under the pallet had been worn away through constant discharge from the steam trap onto the ground. Roye stepped onto the pallet to take a closer look at the valve of the steam trap. He said that the pallet then gave way and he fell into a pit or pool of scalding hot water below. He sustained severe burns.
The steam line and traps had been installed in 2001, when DuPont alone owned the plant. The line was designed by D.B. Western Inc., and engineer Kam-Fu Cheng reviewed the designs. According to Roye, D.B. Western Inc. – Texas paid for the project and owned the line and traps. Harmony Corp., Harmony LLC and Turner Industries Group LLC were the general contractors on the construction and installation. DuPont was paid a fee by D.B. Western Inc. to manage the construction project on DuPont’s property. The DuPont plant manager was John R. Laughlin.
Later, in 2004, DuPont sold a unit of the plant to another company and granted it a shared easement for the line. At that time, Roye, a 30-year DuPont employee, became an employee of the buyer/easement-holder, with no change in his job duties.
Roye sued DuPont, four D.B. Western entities (D.B. Western Inc., D.B. Western Inc. – Texas, D.B. Western International Inc., and International Contractors Inc.), Cheng, Laughlin, Turner, and Harmony.