TORRANCE : 9 File Suit in Oct. 19 Mobil Refinery Blast

Nine people filed suit against Mobil Oil Corp. Monday, asking for $270 million in damages for injuries they claim to have sustained in an Oct. 19 explosion and fire at the refinery.

Twenty-eight workers were injured in accident, which Cal/OSHA linked Friday to lax practices at the refinery. Mobil was fined $67,005.

Rolling Hills Estates attorney Joseph Amato represents eight people who were working at the refinery during the accident and one woman whose damages relate to the loss of companionship with her husband, who worked at the refinery. The refinery workers were all employees of a subcontractor, Amato said.

The personal injury lawsuit alleges negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentionally committing wrongful acts. The suit also alleges that Mobil violated state and federal regulations and its own safety procedures, creating an unsafe work environment.

Amato said his clients, John Bilgard, Hector Talamantes, Joseph Dilly, Selvo Subio Jr., Randy Amburger, Scott Soldis and John Veracruz suffered from burns and inhalation injuries. Dora Munoz was injured when she fell during the explosion. Subio's wife, Joanne, sued for lack of companionship and support provided by marriage, Amato said.

He explained that the damages were calculated by taking into account the amount of money the workers were making, the fact that it will be hard for them to ever make that much money again and the extent of their injuries.

Mobil spokesman Jim Carbonetti said he believes the amount of money plaintiffs are seeking "borders on the ridiculous."

Carbonetti said his company had just learned of the lawsuit and did not yet have a copy.

"It's unfortunate that their lawyer has decided to pursue their misdirected claims in the news media. We haven't even talked to this person," he said.

Carbonetti also said that subcontractor I.S.T. Mechanical Corp. of Carson indemnifies Mobil against any damages for the Industrial Service Technologies workers, and said claims were being referred to the subcontractor's insurer. Amato said all of the workers with burn and inhalation injuries were employed by I.S.T.

The explosion apparently occurred when flammable gases were allowed to flow into a six-inch pipeline. Propane, butylene and butane escaped through a disconnected flange and then ignited, according to a Mobil investigation. Mobil criticized some of its employees for failing to follow proper safety procedures before the accident and said five of the company's workers were fired or disciplined.

Amato said the fines levied by Cal/OSHA were not high enough to punish Mobil.

"We expect to do that with punitive damages," Amato said.

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