Houston team wins on summary judgment for drilling firm after eight-year battle

Press release - Business December 18, 2019

A team of lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright's Houston office recently secured a summary judgment victory for Precision Drilling when a court dismissed a Fair Labor Standards Act collective action that involved 1,006 oil rig workers nationwide. The workers alleged that the company had failed to pay them for the time spent donning and doffing personal protective gear and walking to and from their rig assignment.

On December 17, 2019, after nearly eight years of litigation, US District Court Judge Matthew W. Brann of the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued an order dismissing the case (Rodney Tyger, et al., v. Precision Drilling Corp., et al.; No. 4:11-CV-01913) and finding that the plaintiffs could not establish their claims.

At issue in the case was the unsettled question of whether the drilling mud and other chemicals used during the drilling process were hazardous such that Precision should be legally required to pay for the donning and doffing and associated walking time.   

A victory for the plaintiffs may have had implications for the drilling rig industry and possibly other blue collar fields because companies may have become obligated to pay workers for time spent putting on and taking off personal protective gear.

The plaintiffs had a proposed toxicity expert who alleged that the working environment on Precision's drilling rigs was sufficiently hazardous to require payment. Based on a Daubert motion filed by Precision, Judge Brann excluded and struck the plaintiffs' expert and his testimony in its entirety. 

After striking the plaintiffs' expert, Judge Brann then granted Precision's motion for summary judgment, finding that the plaintiffs were unable to lay a foundation for their claims.

Houston Partner-in-Charge Carter Crow led the team that included Kimberly CheesemanJoseph DoleDevin Wagner and Brett Young (Houston).