HOUSTON (CN) - Exposure to chemical dispersants BP used in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill left a commercial diver with seizures, unable to walk and going blind - and two members of his dive team committed suicide, the man claims in Harris County Court.
David Hogan and his wife sued BP and NALCO Co. - which made the Corexit oil dispersants - and a host of other defendants, including Halliburton, Transocean, ConocoPhillips, Xplore Oil & Gas and Stuyvesant Dredging Co.
After BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. history, BP hired contractors to spray and inject more than 1.8 million gallons of Corexit into the Gulf of Mexico, according to the complaint.
"Between June 1, 2010 and the end of November, 2010, David Hogan performed commercial diving work from boats and vessels that were owned, leased, chartered, contracted for, and/or under the direction and control of Specialty Offshore, ConocoPhillips, Xplore Oil, and the Stuyvesant defendants in the navigable water of the Gulf of Mexico. On every one of those dives during that period of time, David Hogan dove into waters that were contaminated with both the crude oil and the Corexit® dispersants," the complaint states.
Hogan says that on his first dive, in June 2010, "he immediately noticed that something was different from his prior diving experiences," and that "the oil seemed to have sunk considerably deeper into the depths of the Gulf waters than he had ever seen or experienced before. He immediately terminated his dive and returned to the surface, only to find that his wetsuit looked entirely different than it had ever looked before when he had dived into waters with an oil spill."
Hogan says neither ConocoPhillips nor Specialty Offshore provided him or his team with any information about NALCO's Corexit dispersants.
"Expressing concern for the safety of himself and his dive team, he contacted the ConocoPhillips onsite supervisor, who gave him a 'BP Hotline' to call if people had any concerns with respect to health and safety," according to the complaint.
"Upon calling that number, a person answered, identifying themselves as being with BP. After expressing his concern with respect to what he had seen and experienced during his brief dive, that BP spokesperson told Mr. Hogan there was nothing for him to be concerned about, but that he would have one of BP's health and safety people come out to the ConocoPhillips platform to talk to Mr. Hogan and his dive team.
"Within the hour, a helicopter landed on the platform and a man who introduced himself as being a BP representative got out of the helicopter came over to talk to Mr. Hogan.
"BP's 'health and safety man' represented and assured Mr. Hogan and his dive that, notwithstanding the fact that they would be diving and spending a considerable amount of time in the Deepwater Horizon's oil spill, there was absolutely nothing harmful or hazardous to their safety or health in the oil, in the water, or whatever was causing the oil to sink so deep beneath the surface.
"In fact, when this case is tried, the evidence will show that this BP 'health and safety man' made Mr. Hogan feel as though it was foolish for Mr. Hogan to have called at all, and it seemed as if the BP 'health and safety man' had wasted his time flying all the way out to where Mr. Hogan and his dive team were located, for such a trivial matter.
"Mr. Hogan and the BP 'health and safety man' specifically talked about whether Mr. Hogan and his dive team would need to change to 'haz-mat' dive gear if there was a concern for safety and health in what was in the water and oil spill; however, the BP 'health and safety man' reassured Mr. Hogan that 'haz-mat' diving gear was not necessary since there was absolutely nothing in the oil or anything mixed with the oil that was hazardous or of any concern, from a health standpoint to Mr. Hogan and his dive crew.
"Based on that information," Hogan says, he and his crew worked 18- to 20-hour days for the next 1½ to 2 weeks, in water that was "consistently contaminated with oil for a considerable distance below the surface." Hogan says the water also was contaminated with Corexit.
He and his team worked in the oil- and Corexit-contaminated water for 5 months for a variety of defendants, Hogan says, including ConocoPhillips, Xplore Oil & Gas and Stuyvesant Dredging.
"Again, at the end of each diving day, Mr. Hogan and his dive team's wetsuits would look like something they had never seen before prior to starting these diving operations back in June 2010," the complaint states.
Hogan says at least one team member started having health problems before they finished their work for Stuyvesant Dredging.
"Two of the dive team members have since committed suicide," the complaint states.
Hogan says due to the assurances they got from BP's "health and safety man," they did not initially blame their health problems on the contaminated waters.
"However, as Mr. Hogan's health problems progressed and did not abate, he ultimately contacted a physician in Louisiana who had been treating hundreds of patients who had come into contact with the oil and Corexit® dispersants," according to the complaint.
"By August, 2011, medical testing and medical evaluation by one or more physicians familiar with exposure to the oil spill and, particularly, exposure to the Corexit® dispersants, led physicians to inform Mr. Hogan that his progressing medical problems were caused by the contact with the oil spill during his diving operations between June and November, 2010.
"Through additional testing and medical evaluation, by November 16, 2011, Mr. Hogan had been diagnosed as suffering from neurotoxicity 'related to chronic and cumulative exposure to chemical and heavy metals associated with the Gulf oil spill and dispersant.'
"At this time, Mr. Hogan is suffering from a myriad of health issues related to his exposure to the oil spill and NALCO Corexit® dispersants, including but not limited to the fact that he cannot walk, his vision has progressed to being legally blind in his left eye and his most recent eye examination shows that he continues to lose sight in his right eye, and for all intents and purposes, is a paraplegic."
Hogan says that before his exposure to the chemicals he "was a very gregarious, healthy man" who climbed 14,400-foot Mount Rainier in May 2010.
"Since November 2010, he has lost 60 pounds and is wheelchair-bound. If that were not enough, David has also suffered cognitive problems, seizures, vertigo," the complaint states. (Graph 63)
Hogan says he is rapidly losing vision in his right eye.
Named as defendants are British Petroleum Exploration & Production Inc.; BP America Inc.; BP America Production Company; BP Products North America Inc.; BP plc; Halliburton Energy Services Inc.; Transocean Ltd.; Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc.; Transocean Deepwater Inc.; Transocean Holdings LLC; NALCO Company; Specialty Offshore Inc.; ConocoPhillps; Xplore Oil & Gas LLC; Stuyvesant Dredging Company; and Stuyvesant Dredging Inc.
Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig; Halliburton performed cement work on the Macondo well beneath the rig before the blowout.
Hogan seeks punitive damages for gross negligence and negligence under general maritime law and the Jones Act, from NALCO for products liability under general maritime law, and punitive damages for past and future physical pain and suffering, past and future mental pain, suffering and anguish, past and future medical bills and lost wages.
He and his wife are represented by Craig Lewis, of Houston.