BILLINGS - The family of a Butte man who was found slumped over an oil storage tank at his job site in Sidney in 2010 is suing Exxon Mobil for allegedly exposing the man to dangerous gases.
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula by the Estate of Trent Vigus, who died at the age of 30.
Up until his death, Vigus was working in Richland County for Nabors Industries, LLC, a Texas corporation that provided services to XTO Energy.
Vigus’ duties include manual gauging of oil tanks, according to court documents filed Thursday.
A coworker found Vigus’ body slumped over an open hatch on the oil storage tank on July 9.
Frac wells are known to produce dangerous concentrations of toxic gases in the collection and storage tanks, according to the complaint, and XTO Energy was aware that the substances can cause death.
The complaint alleges that the company had a duty to maintain its equipment and facilities in a condition that was not unreasonably dangerous to people in its vicinity.
The complaint also alleges that XTO Energy had a duty to test and monitor the conditions to ensure it would not cause harm or death to workers,
“XTO was negligent in its operation of the oil well, equipment, tanks, and operating procedures,” the complaint alleges.
According to the complaint, the coroner ruled that Vigus died from natural causes: a heart attack.
But after reading about a similar death related to the oil work, Vigus' common law wife came to believe Vigus did not die from natural causes.
Vigus’ baby was born four months after his death.
According to the complaint, the victim’s baby and widow are now suffering from economic hardships as a result of Vigus’ death.
The plaintiffs are requesting an unspecified amount of damages to be determined at trial.
XTO Energy has yet to respond to the complaint.