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Philadelphia-In what may be Pennsylvania’s largest-ever reported settlement in a single-victim wrongful death case, an oil refinery operator has agreed to pay more than $36.4 million to the family of a Bucks County, Pa., man whose body was never found after he fell into a tank of sulfuric acid following a July 2001 explosion. Jeffrey C. Davis was a construction worker for a company hired to repair the catwalks on tanks at a refinery in Delaware City, Del., operated by Motiva Enterprises, a Houston-based joint venture of Shell Oil Co. and Saudi Refining Inc. Davis was killed and eight other workers were injured in the explosion when a spark from welding equipment ignited flammable vapors in a 415,000-gallon sulfuric acid storage tank at the refinery. Rescue workers ultimately concluded that Davis’ body was obliterated by the acid, leaving behind only the rubber soles of his boots as evidence of his death. The surrounding sulfuric acid tank farm was heavily damaged in the blast, and an estimated 1.1 million gallons of the acid were released into the environment, including nearly 100,000 gallons that flowed into the nearby Delaware River, according to investigators. U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin recently granted final approval of the settlement between the estate of Jeffrey Davis and Motiva. Davis v. Motiva Enterprises, No. 02-CV-3852 (E.D. Pa.). “Motiva again expresses its deepest sympathies to the family of Jeffrey Davis, and recognizes that no amount of money can ever replace the life of Mr. Davis,” said Motiva spokesman Shawn Frederick. “We hope the settlement serves as an acknowledgment of our profound regrets while providing the Davis family with a financially secure future.” Court records show that McLaughlin approved a distribution of the settlement in which Jeffrey Davis’ widow, Mary Davis, will be paid more than $12.9 million, and each of the five children, who range in age from 13 to 32, will be paid more than $2.1 million. The judge also approved attorney fees of more than $12.1 million-one-third of the settlement-for plaintiffs’ attorneys Thomas R. Kline and Matthew A. Casey of Philadelphia’s Kline & Specter. Kline told McLaughlin in a recent hearing that his firm spent nearly $750,000 investigating the case, which was subtracted from the settlement before distribution. The settlement comes less than two months after Motiva avoided a criminal trial by pleading no contest to a charge of criminally negligent homicide and six counts of misdemeanor assault. All charges were lodged against the company. The company was fined $296,000. The settlement avoids a trial that was set to begin on Sept. 22. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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