Tosco to Pay $21 Million in Refinery Blast Suits

Reuters

Tosco Corp. has agreed to pay $21 million to settle wrongful death lawsuits from the families of three workers killed in a February 1999 explosion at its Avon oil refinery near San Francisco, attorneys said. The payout is one of the largest for a wrongful death case in California history, they said. The family of Ricardo Enriquez received $3 million, as Ricardo had no children, and the families of Rollin Blue and Tom Rodacker received $9 million each. Tosco worker Ernie Pofahl, also killed in the blast, was not involved in the settlement. The wrongful death lawsuits charged Tosco with acting maliciously, alleging that the company had failed to conduct maintenance in a "conscious disregard for safety," an attorney for the Enriquez family said. Tosco officials were not available for comment. The Stamford, Conn.-based refiner agreed to pay nearly $2 million in fines after pleading no contest to criminal charges relating to the explosion. In August, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration slapped a record fine on Tosco of $810,750 for 33 violations of workplace safety rules. OSHA accused Tosco of willful negligence and said it was considering a criminal suit. Tosco shares fell $1.25 to close at $30.13 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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