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HALLIBURTON OIL WELL CEMENTING COMPANY v. MRS. TRUMAN ODELL GROVES ET AL. (12/19/57)

December 19, 1957

HALLIBURTON OIL WELL CEMENTING COMPANY, APPELLANT,
v.
MRS. TRUMAN ODELL GROVES ET AL., APPELLEES



Author: Tirey

TIREY, Justice.

This is a negligence case. Marvin Groves died from injuries received when a crown block broke on a workover rig in an oil field on March 10, 1955. Suit was brought by appellees, Mrs. Truman Odell Groves, widow, and Barbara Groves Nugent, daughter, joined by her husband, Billy Ray Nugent, for damages sustained resulting from the injuries and death of Marvin Groves against appellant, Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company. Appellees contend that specific acts of negligence on the part of appellant proximately caused the injuries and death of Marvin Groves. Traders & General Insurance Company, intervenor and workmen's compensation insurer for Marvin Groves' employer, did not participate in the trial because its rights were stipulated. At the close of appellees' case and at the close of all the evidence, appellant's motion for instructed verdict was overruled. The case went to the jury and after the jury verdict was received, appellant moved for judgment non obstante veredicto and for judgment on the verdict. Appellant's motions were overruled and the trial court entered judgment for appellees and intervenor against appellant in the total amount of $59,390. Appellant has perfected its appeal to this court.

Appellees went to trial on their original petition. We quote paragraphs 2 and 3, which constitute their allegations of negligence:

"II. At all times material to this cause of action, the defendant, Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company was engaged in the business of rendering specialized oil field services in connection with the drilling of oil wells and the production of oil. It leases to the owners of oil wells certain tools, the exact nature of which is unknown to your plaintiffs but well known to the defendant. Your plaintiffs, Mrs. Truman Odell Groves and Barbara Groves Nugent, are the surviving widow and child of Marvin D. Groves, deceased. Your plaintiffs would respectfully show unto the court and jury that on March 10, 1955, Marvin D. Groves was an employee of Mobile Well Service. The discharge of the duties of his employment on said date required him to be on the premises at a well known as Pool No. 1, owned by H.L. Hunt Oil Company in the Long Lake Field in Anderson County, Texas. The deceased was a member of a crew of employees of Mobile Well Service who were working on the well known as Pool No. 1. The particular job of this crew was to do the rigging in connection with a sand-frac job thereon. Mobile Well Service furnished a derrick machine, a crown block and the necessary small tools required to do its part of the job. Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company was likewise employed by H. L. Hunt Oil Company in connection with this sand-frac job and had a crew of men on the premises on March 10, 1955. The tubing in the well was pulled out by the crew of Mobile Well Service. After the tubing had been pulled out, a tool of Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company was attached near the lower end of the tubing, which was then put back in the well inside the casing to a depth of approximately 5,200 feet. It was ascertained during the morning of March 10, 1955, that the tool of the defendant was not working properly. About the hour of noon on March 10, 1955, the deceased, Marvin D. Groves, was directed to use the derrick machine for the purpose of withdrawing the tubing from the hole so that the tool of the defendant could be repaired and made to function properly. The pressure was applied by means of cables which ran through sheaves in the crown block. The application of pressure developed by the derrick machine, which was being operated by the deceased, did not raise the tool of the defendant. After the pressure had been applied several times, the deceased cut off the motor. He was then directed by the employee of the defendant to apply additional pressure in the effort to raise the tool. As this additional pressure was being applied under the directions of the employee of the defendant, the crown block suddenly spread. This caused the sheaves and the cable to fall. As the deceased was attempting to get out of danger, he was struck a glancing blow in the back by one of the sheaves, which bounced upward and struck him again causing him to be thrown from the catwalk down onto a large concrete pillar located at the base of one of the derrick legs. The incident made the basis of this suit was brought about by the negligence and carelessness of the employees of the defendant. As a result thereof, Marvin D. Groves received fatal injuries, which produced his death a short while later in the afternoon of March 10, 1955.

"III. The occurrence made the basis of this suit resulted from the negligence of the employees and representatives of the defendant, while acting in the course and scope of their employment, in some one or more of the following particulars:

"1. In furnishing a defective tool.

"2. In furnishing a tool which would not operate properly and thereby became stuck in the casing of the well.

"3. In directing the use of excessive pressure on the tubing.

"4. In failing to make proper inspection of the tool.

"5. In failing to discover the defective condition of the tool.

"6. In requiring the use of more pressure on the tubing than was reasonable and prudent.

"Each and all of the above and foregoing acts, both of omission and commission, were negligent and constituted negligence and were each and all a proximate cause of the occurrence made the basis of this suit and of the fatal injuries suffered by Marvin D. Groves and the damages suffered by your plaintiffs."

Appellant went to trial on its first amended original answer and we quote paragraphs 3 and 4 of such answer, which contain its defense to the allegations of negligence, save and except its general denial:

"3. On or about March 10, 1955, defendant was engaged by the Hunt Oil Company to do a sand-frac job on an oil well owned by Hunt Oil Company, which sand-frac job substantially required the defendant to furnish a tool to be placed in the hole for the purpose of pumping into the formation a substance to enable a better flow of oil. Mobile Well Service Company was engaged by Hunt Oil Company to furnish the equipment and to perform the work necessary to place the tool in the hole. Marvin D. Groves was an employee of Mobile Well Service Company and was in charge of the crew of Mobile that was doing the work at the well. The equipment furnished by Mobile under the direction of Marvin D. Groves was a pulling unit on the back of a truck, a crown block and other necessary tools to put the tool in the hole and to remove it. All of said equipment was in the exclusive possession and control of Mobile Well Service Company under the direction of Marvin D. Groves and this defendant had no duty to furnish such equipment as the pulling unit and crown block. On the day prior to the accident resulting in the death of Marvin D. Groves, Marvin D. Groves and his crew for Mobile Well Service Company rigged up their equipment at the well for the pulling of the rods and tubing so that the defendant's tool could be placed in the hole and such rigging was done under the direction of Marvin D. Groves. The employees of Mobile Well Service Company placed at the top of the derrick the crown block owned by Mobile Well Service Company. In placing the crown block in the top of the derrick and in rigging up their equipment the truck of Mobile Well Service, on which was placed the pulling unit, was placed at right angle to the crown block so that the line from the pulling unit to the sheaves in the crown block did not run in a straight line. Marvin D. Groves and the Mobile Well Service crew did not bring to the well a weight indicator or did not use a weight indicator to show what weight was being lifted or how much strain was being exerted at any given time when the pulling unit was in operation. The operation of the pulling unit was under the exclusive direction and control of Mobile Well Service and Marvin D. Groves. This defendant had no knowledge of the condition of any of the equipment that Mobile Well Service used at the well, including the condition of the crown block and the pulling unit.

"On March 10, 1955, Mobile Well Service crew, under the direction of Marvin D. Groves, had lowered into the hole this defendant's tool. Immediately prior to the accident defendant's employee signaled to Marvin D. Groves to pull up on the tubing and while Marvin D. Groves was operating the Mobile Well Service pulling unit the Mobile Well Service crown block parted causing the sheaves to fall, resulting in the injuries and death of Marvin D. Groves.

"The injuries and death of Marvin D. Groves proximately resulted from his negligence in one or more of the following particulars, to-wit:

"(1) In using a defective crown block.

"(2) In failing to use a weight indicator.

"(3) In rigging so that an undue strain was placed on the crown block.

"(4) In failing to know the condition and operational capacity of Mobile's equipment.

"(5) In continuing to operate the pulling unit to pull up on the tubing at a time when Mobile's equipment would not stand the strain.

"(6) In failing to warn anyone that Mobile's equipment would not stand the strain.

"Each and all of the above and foregoing acts of omission and commission were negligence and were each and all a proximate cause of the ...


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