On April 28, 2011, Uriel Tejeda incurred catastrophic burns to his head, trunk, buttock, arms, thigh, legs, and hands when he was engulfed in flames after a steel line that was improperly anchored separated, severing an electrical cord that was improperly wrapped around the steel line. David Rumley, an attorney with Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair, LLP, was hired by Mr. Tejeda and conducted an investigation that revealed that the well site was owned by Petrohawk Operating Company, Petrohawk Energy Corporation, and Petrohawk Properties, L.P. Patterson-UTI Drilling Company, L.L.C. and Patterson-UTI Energy, Inc. owned the rig.
Just prior to the fire, Patterson and Petrohawk were conducting a survey after completing a connection. After the survey was complete, Petrohawk instructed Patterson to continue drilling, despite experiencing pressures that exceeded 4,000 psi. Nothing was done in an effort to decrease the down hole pump pressure. Instead, Patterson was instructed to continue drilling by Petrohawk. The down hole pump pressure increased to over 4500 psi, activating the pop off valve. When the pop off valve was activated, the flow was redirected to a panic line that was not properly secured. Additionally, the panic line was not welded and no anchoring system was in place to secure the panic line in the event the pop off valve was activated. Wrapped around the improperly secured steel panic line was an electrical cord that according to Patterson and Petrohawk should not have been there. When the steel line separated, the electrical cord was severed causing a spark that ignited the drilling mud that was being used to circulate the well during normal ongoing drilling operations. The fire engulfed Mr. Tejeda in flames causing catastrophic burns.
On July 25, 2012, David Rumley filed a suit against Patterson-UTI Drilling Company, LLC, Patterson-UTI Energy, Inc., Petrohawk Operating Company, Petrohawk Energy Corporation, Petrohawk Properties, LP, M.W. Rentals & Services, Inc., and BHP Billiton Petroleum Trading and Marketing, Inc. in Nueces County, Texas. The case was vigorously defended by the Defendants and after seventeen depositions, and just prior to a ruling by the court on a Death Penalty Sanctions motion filed by Mr. Rumley, the entire case was settled for a confidential sum in March 2013.