On Good Friday, April 2, 2010 there was an enormous explosion and fire at the Tesoro Refinery at March Point, near Anacortes. Five people died and two survived with serious burns. Several families involved have hired my law firm along with a Texas law firm to represent them. When the media reported the families had contacted lawyers there were those who were critical of the families for doing so.
Let me respond to that criticism by saying the refineries are very familiar to me. I was born and raised in Anacortes. I graduated from Anacortes High School in 1953 and remember the construction of the Shell and Texaco refineries in the 1950’s. I practiced law in Mount Vernon for many years and have law office there now. Nor is tragedy at the refinery site new to me. My law firm and I have represented people who have suffered loss in refinery and oil pipe line explosions, including the families of the six people killed in an unnecessary explosion in 1998 as well as the Olympic pipe line explosion in Whatcom county in 2002. For fifty years I have represented people against the insurance industry and big corporations as well as for abuse of power by government.
What I have learned is that profit making corporations have only one purpose for existing and that is to make a profit for their share holders. They have no other reason to exist then to make a profit. The universal language of corporations is money. They understand money. That’s why the people I represent hire a lawyer after a tragedy like the recent one at Tesoro. The suffering families have two primary goals: find out the truth about what happened and try to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else by demanding accountability They know that unless they hire a lawyer they won’t know the truth nor will there be any change in the way corporations conduct their business or make changes for the safety of workers.
There is only one effective to reach either of the goals of truth and accountaibility and that is to use the universal language all corporations understand – money. Neither politicians nor governmental agencies can achieve either goal as quickly and effectively as a lawsuit for damages. There is no other good and successful way to get the attention of big corporations then hitting their pocket book. There is no better way of encouraging safety changes then to cost them money. If you want to find out the truth and get the attention of the corporation to make changes for the benefit of safety you have to sue them for money damages. That’s the reality.
All of those who complain that the families and their lawyers are just greedy people ignore the fact there is no other effective, adequate remedy in our society for obtaining the truth and promoting a change in the way corporations conduct their business then costing money. It is the one language all corporations understand. Not only that, basic justice requires that the wrong doer pay for the damage they have caused. The amount of damages should equal the harm they caused. Those who complain the lawyers and the families are only in it for the money and that no amount of money can make up for the harm are really suggesting we let the corporation go without paying what they owe. A lawsuit for damages is the only way civilized societies ensure that justice prevails in a tragedy like this one.
The families that have the courage to take on big corporations by hiring a lawyer are doing a public service for the entire community. They are, in fact, taking the only action available to them which will result in finding out truth, require accountability and promote safety changes for the benefit of everyone.