Pipe-Lift Elevator Fell on Roughnecks Foot


Plaintiff Joseph Bernard Jr. was a roughneck working on a jack-up rig in the Gulf of Mexico. On Sept. 30, 2000, while tripping pipe out of the drilling hole, the brakes on the pipe-lift elevator failed. It dropped onto Bernard’s foot, dragged him across the floor, and threw him against the drawworks.

Bernard sued his employer, R & B Falcon Drilling USA Inc., Houma, La., under the Jones Act, alleging unseaworthiness and negligence. He also sued Southern Technology & Services Inc., Houma, La., a third-party contractor which had repaired the drawworks a month before the accident, under a negligence theory.

Discovery revealed that the pins for the braking unit in the drawworks elevator had not been secured when the drawworks braking assembly was reworked.  Mark Bunn, the employee for Southern Technology in charge of installing the brake bands, claimed that he was not on the rig
when the job was performed and alleged that R & B Falcon employees installed the bands.

R & B Falcon denied Bunn’s allegations, claiming that Bunn was on the rig when the bands were repaired and that he failed to do his job properly.

The defendants alleged that Bernard was negligent for failing to move out of the way of slow-moving pipe-lift elevator. They also alleged that Bernard did not move out of the way because he had been wearing stolen work boots which did not fit properly. They claimed that two other workers who were performing the same operation as Bernard were able to avoid injury.


Bernard injured his big toe and back. He was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) and underwent a discectomy on his lower back.

The defendants had Bernard evaluated twice by two different doctors, both of whom disagreed with the RSD diagnosis and the determination that Bernard was disabled from future work.

RESULT: SETTLEMENT for $950,000 with $420,000 net to client.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of others, contact the Houston workplace negligence attorneys at The Ammons Law Firm today for a free consultation.

Rob Ammons is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, in addition to being Board Certified in Civil Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.  Rob Ammons’ law practice, The Ammons Law Firm, is located in Houston, Texas.  The Ammons Law Firm practice is exclusively personal injury law, handling such cases as tire defects, oil rig explosions, truck accidents, plant explosions, refinery accidents, wrongful death, post-collision fires, seat belt defects, airbag defects, SUV rollovers, and workplace negligence.