Wrongful Death - Part 3


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Zenaida Presas, et al.  v. Driltech Mission LLC

by John G. Fischer, P.E., Esq.


The following fact summary is taken from the various pleadings and documents associated with the case.  It is normal to find disparities in the fact patterns provided by the parties.  The intention here is to present a quick summary, taking facts from the pleadings of various parties and related documents.  As always, the disputed facts will ultimately be reviewed by a jury of people just like you and me, who will determine what the truth is.  Until then, we will present the facts as they were plead, with no personal knowledge as to their accuracy or truth.

Felipe Persas, Sr. was born July 3, 1947.  He was a United States veteran.  He was a resident of Missouri City, Texas.  In February of 1970, at just 22 years old, he began a thirty year career working as a machine operator for Sandvik Rock Tools, Inc. in Houston, Texas.  On November 4, 1998, his employer officially became Driltech Mission, L.L.C.  Beginning November 1, 1999, Mr. Persas was assigned to work at the Driltech facility in Mansfield, Texas.  At this time, Driltech engaged Mr. Persas through People Source Inc. where he was to be employed as a temporary laborer.  Mr. Persas left his home and moved into a local hotel and began work as a machinist at the Driltech Mission facility.  He remained employed there until January 16, 2000, when he died.

V&V Industries, Inc. d/b/a/ 2V Industries, Inc. is a supplier of metalworking fluids including industrial coolants, cleaners, forming compounds, surface treatment chemicals and plant lubricants.  V&V Industries is the compounder of the metalworking fluid SMF 500.  V&V Industries sold SMF 500 to Precision Fluids in Texas.  Precision Fluids is a Texas Corporation located in Houston.  Precision Fluids sold SMF 500 under the label Synmax 3300 to Driltech Mission and to it's predecessor Sandvik Rock Tools for several years.  They marketed the product as having "Excellent Bio-Resistance."  Precision Fluids states that during visits to Driltech, they noticed a  "bad smell" coming from the systems in which Synmax 3300 was being used.  They took measurements which confirmed product was not being properly maintained.  They also state in their First Amended Answer, that they met with Mr. Persas's superior(s) and informed him/them that the systems smelled because they were contaminated with tramp oil and bacteria, and that the systems were not being properly monitored and maintained.

On Saturday, January 15th and Sunday, January 16th, Mr. Persas was working on a 1981 Giddings & Lewis Machine Tool Center (G&L).  People around him say he showed no signs of illness at the time.  Synmax 3300 was the coolant used on the machine, and according to testimony, had a sour odor.  The machine is alleged to have had frequent problems, including hydraulic oil leaks which accumulated in the coolant sump.  The sump is allegedly several feet deep, and located underneath the machine, where it is difficult to thoroughly clean.  There was no mist control system (other than the plant a/c system) and the operators were said to be exposed to the mist.  Deposition testimony indicates that another operator of the machine developed skin irritation of his hands and lower arms. 

On the evening of January 16th, around 6:30 PM, Mr. Presas was seen in the emergency room of the Medical Center of Arlington with a fever, shortness of breath, and a bloody cough.  His vital signs indicated serious trouble.  He was immediately placed on a ventilator.  His chest x-ray was abnormal with evidence of bi-lateral pneumonia.  His white blood cell count was severely decreased, and there were other problems as well.  He was admitted to intensive care where presumably every technology available and every human effort was made to save his life.  Mr. Presas had spent essentially his entire adult life working for one company.  He spent the last 30 years of his life operating machines.  He spent the last five hours of his life in repeated episodes of prolonged hypertension and cardiopulmonary arrest.  He died at 11:24 pm that night.  He was 52 years old.

Mr. Presas received a military funeral, complete with a 21 gun salute.