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HNRK and Hickey & Evans Earn Complete Victory Against Sinclair in $80 Million Trial Over Major Refinery Fire


NEW YORK, NY – August 26, 2019 – A federal court in Wyoming has granted HNRK client Pro-Inspect, Inc. a complete defense victory following a trial over more than $88 million in claims arising from a 2011 explosion and fire at an oil refinery. The court agreed with the defense that Pro-Inspect, since acquired by Intertek Asset Integrity Management, Inc., did not breach its contract with the refinery owner and did not act negligently.

The fire happened when crude oil ignited after rupturing through an allegedly corroded refinery pipe. The refinery owner, plaintiff Sinclair Wyoming Refinery Corporation, had contracted with Pro-Inspect to send inspectors to the facility to help with the refinery’s piping inspections. Among other things, the court found that the scope of Pro-Inspect’s contract was limited to performing inspection activities as directed by Sinclair, including in this case a visual inspection of the exterior of the piping system. The court rejected Sinclair’s argument that Pro-Inspect had an additional duty to evaluate internal corrosion levels. A comprehensive 46-page opinion from Judge Alan Johnson set forth the court’s findings.

“We are very gratified by this ruling,” said HNRK partner John Curley, who was part of the trial team with fellow HNRK partner John J. Kenney and lawyers from the Cheyenne, Wyoming firm Hickey & Evans, LLP. “We’re particularly happy that Pro-Inspect’s blamelessness in this unfortunate fire has been recognized.”

The parties tried the dispute to the court over the course of nine days in 2014. In his ruling, the judge found that aside from the fact that Pro-Inspect had no obligation to evaluate internal corrosion in the piping, Sinclair had failed to prove its doing so would have prevented the fire. The court observed that “Sinclair’s own failures contributed to the cascade of problems that could be regarded as significant contributors” to the fire.

The case, Sinclair Wyoming Refinery Company v. Pro-Inspect, Inc. (No. 12-CV-196-J), was tried in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming.


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