Cost-Cutting Revealed in Refinery Explosion that Critically Burns Three

Doug Schad, a contractor working on a new Qualitech Steel Plant, went to find out why the refinery’s final stage vessel wasn’t operating correctly when an explosion ripped through the pit where he was standing. He and two others were seriously burned. Our evidence showed corporate cost-cutting and lack of safeguards were responsible. A jury found the companies guilty of gross negligence, prompting the companies to settle before the jury could award damages.


Construction of the Qualitech Steel plant was almost finished. The next step was to run through a start-up to make sure everything was working as it should. It wasn’t. Designed to produce iron carbide from iron ore through a heating and cooling process, the refinery’s cooling vats located in a pit deep in the earth were not reducing temperatures enough. Doug Schad, director of Qualitech Operations and Construction, was checking on the vats when an explosion ripped through the pit, severely burning him and two other workers.

The Edwards firm’s investigation showed that corporate cost-cutting had altered the design of the cooling vats, causing them to malfunction. Further, the companies responsible for designing and building the plant – Kawasaki, Mitsubishi, and Honeywell, among others – failed to install computer interlocks, safety mechanisms and emergency shut- down systems that would have prevented the explosion.

Doug Schad’s injuries were substantial, his medical expenses enormous, his pain and suffering excruciating. The long-term quality of his life and that of his wife were forever altered. The verdict and settlement won by the Edwards’ Firm was enough to provide Doug and his wife with the resources they needed to live their lives as fully as possible. They did not have to live on taxpayer dollars. The companies responsible for his injuries were held responsible and made accountable.

Going up against big chemical and refining companies takes resources, years of experience and the confidence that comes from winning cases against them. Located in the energy-producing corridor of the Texas coast, the Edwards Firm has been representing injured chemical and oil and gas company workers for more than 20 years.