Drill rig death case moved to Garfield County

Procedures in a lawsuit over a 2007 accidental death on a drilling rig have been delayed after the case was moved from Denver to Garfield County.

Erin Buchanan, the widow of Joseph Buchanan, is pursuing a wrongful death suit after her husband, Joseph, died July 19, 2007, off County Road 315 southeast of Rifle. Joseph Buchanan was working as an independent contractor when a piece of drilling equipment fell on his head.

Erin Buchanan, of Hallsville, Texas, is suing energy company Antero Resources Piceance Corp., Frontier Drilling, and All-Star Enterprises Inc., which does business as Bernard Well Service.

Erin Buchanan is seeking economic and noneconomic damages on behalf of herself, her late husband’s estate, and their two minor children.

The suit accuses the defendants of “unreasonable actions and inactions” in operating the rig and equipment; poor training and supervision of employees; and a failure to properly use, maintain and secure equipment to prevent it from falling. The suit also says defendants failed to properly warn Joseph Buchanan of the danger posed by the equipment when they knew or should have known it was likely to fall.

In court filings, the defendants deny those allegations, and the suit’s contention that their actions were negligent and reckless.

Antero said, “If a dangerous condition existed, which this Defendant denies, such danger was open and obvious.”

Frontier said that as an independent contractor, Joseph Buchanan was outside the company’s control.

It added, “Any injuries or damages sustained by Plaintiffs were directly and proximately caused by the failure of the Plaintiff Joseph Buchanan to heed warnings and instructions.”

The defendants had objected to setting a trial in Denver and instead sought a change of venue, which a Denver judge granted. Frontier had said that “other forums would be more convenient to the witnesses and parties” in the case.

Yeulin Willett, a Grand Junction attorney representing Antero, said another Antero entity and Halliburton are going to be included in the case as defendants. They had been named in a sister case in Texas in which some defendants were dismissed. Everyone agreed to have the remaining defendants included in the Colorado case, Willett said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Frontier a total of $7,650 following the incident, and All-Star was fined $2,100. Frontier was cited for seven health and safety violations, six of them serious, and one directly related to Buchanan’s death. It involved a failure to tether and secure the piece of equipment that killed Buchanan, OSHA found.

A second involved a lack of inspections that left workers vulnerable to being struck if a wire rope used to handle pipe failed. All-Star was cited with one serious violation over the same concern.


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