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Seven-figure settlement for dead Montana man's family

The family of a Montana man killed while working at an oil well in neighboring North Dakota has reached a confidential settlement with Marathon Oil. Relatives of the victim received an unspecified amount of money in connection with the wrongful death suit they filed after the man's death. Even though Marathon was prepared to go to trial in the matter, the settlement has permitted the dismissal of the case, to the satisfaction of both the oil company and the victim's family members.

Reports show that the man was killed in January 2012, after inhaling hazardous fumes at the oil drilling site. The man was killed by hydrocarbon poisoning while working for Across Big Sky Flow Testing, a company that is contracted to provide services at Marathon Oil sites. A courtroom statement shows that Marathon had been informed about the dangerous gas levels in the area, but supervisors permitted the man to continue working. An employee had actually brought the situation to the attention of a Marathon supervisor, reporting the ultra-hazardous levels of contamination in the area.

The 21-year-old Edgar resident was found dead by a co-worker on the oil rig. He left behind a daughter who was just six weeks old when he perished.

Attorneys for the family cannot disclose the specifics of the settlement, but informal calculations put the payout in the seven-figure range. Marathon had prepared several defenses in the case, intending to argue that it was not liable for the man's death because he was employed by a third-party contractor. Marathon also intended to show that the man's death was partially his own fault because of negligence.

Although the settlement is not considered an admission of guilt, it is likely that Marathon officials realized the weakness of their arguments. Settlements are beneficial for all parties because companies and plaintiffs avoid lengthy courtroom battles that can include several rounds of appeals. Now, the family members and oil company can continue on with their respective businesses, having settled the matter of this tragic death.

Source: Billings Gazette, "Settlement ends lawsuit over Montanan's oil field death," Ed Kemmick, Feb. 8, 2013.

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