LUFKIN, Texas (CN) - Families alleging negligence and wrongful death related to a fatal oil-rig explosion off the coast of Mexico failed to prosecute in good faith, a federal judge ruled.
Twenty-two offshore workers were killed on Oct. 23, 2007, when hurricane-force winds in the Bay of Campeche pushed a mobile drilling rig into a stationary platform, causing crude oil and natural gas leaks and an explosion. The workers managed to evacuate the platform before it blew up, but they drowned when the two lifeboats they used capsized.
Those injured or killed in the accident worked for Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) or
Perforadora Central (Perforadora), a company that assists the state-owned oil company in oil exploration.
Pemex owned the KAB-101 platform in question and was leasing the Usumacinta rig from Perforadora.
Maria Santos Lopez Dominguez became the lead plaintiff after a federal judge in Beaumont, Texas, consolidated the lawsuits
filed by survivors and families of the victims, all of whom were residents of Mexico, against Gulf Coast Marine & Associates Inc., Halliburton Energy Services Inc. and others.
The court dismissed the action in 2011 so that the courts in Mexico could take jurisdiction, but judges in Campeche eventually dismissed the 11 separate actions filed there "by reason that the territory concerned to which the residence of the defendants are not found in."
U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone on Wednesday refused to let the plaintiffs revive their consolidated action in Beaumont because they did not pursue their case "in good faith" in Mexican courts.
The Mexican courts were not aware that the defendants consented to Mexican jurisdiction because the plaintiffs did not inform them of stipulations or judge's orders in the U.S. dismissal, according to the opinion.
"Although the return-jurisdiction clause in this case did not expressly require plaintiffs to appeal the Mexican judgment, their failure to do so is perplexing given the clear Mexican legal authority supporting the exercise of jurisdiction in cases where, as here, defendants have consented in writing to the jurisdiction of Mexican courts," Crone wrote.
Previously the court had found no issue with the initial dismissal of the case by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark, even though he later recused
himself because he owned stock in one of the defendant companies.