Confidential settlements over deadly drilling rig fire will remain sealed

Families of five men killed in a massive well drilling fire in 2018 in southeast Oklahoma have reached a confidential settlement with Patterson UTI Drilling Co. And a Discovery Master has ruled the settlement will remain secret despite the efforts of a Houston energy firm to have it unsealed.

Discovery Master Ted A. Knight, a retired Associate District Judge in LeFlore County ruled against National Oilwell Vargo, a Houston firm that remains a defendant in the negligence lawsuits brought by families of the five men killed in the fire on January 22, 2018 near Quinton, Oklahoma.

The settlements by families of victims Josh Ray, Matt Smith, Cody Risk, Parker Waldridge and Roger Cunningham were reached in early 2019. The families of Waldridge, Cunningham and Smith resolved their disputes with Patterson UTI Drilling in May. All five families made identical claims against National Oilwell Varco, L.P.

During the legal fight, National Oilwell Vargo, (NOV) fought depositions sought by the families who wanted to interview Clay Williams, Chairman, President and CEO of NOV, Michael Cowan who is Vice-president of NOV’s U.S. Fluids, Johnny Chapman, Vice President of Drilling Fluids and Solids Control and Mark Lapeyrouse, President of NOV’s Wellsite Services.

Then NOV, in preparation for trial demanded that the confidential settlements reached between the five families and Patterson UTI Drilling be made available so NOV could effectively prepare its defense. Patterson UTI Drilling responded by requesting a Protective Order.

In his ruling, Discovery Master Knight ruled that Patterson “has established good cause by showing that prejudice and harm could result to the Plaintiffs who are parties to the Confidential Settlement Agreements.”

He stated “the privacy of the grieving families should be protected”‘ and granted the protective order last week to Patterson and the five families.