Doyle Dennis LLP V. Benthic USA: Negligence | Workplace Injury Lawsuit

Doyle Dennis LLP recently filed suit against Benthic USA and its employee for wrongful and negligent conduct that resulted in Doyle Dennis’ client suffering a serious, life-altering injury.

The suit was filed in Harris County District Court, in Houston, Texas, alleging negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty for Benthic’s failure to provide basic medical attention and evacuation of an injured employee, working in Africa.

Benthic hired Doyle Dennis LLP’s client to work as a Geotechnical Project Manager. In late 2019, Benthic assigned Doyle Dennis LLP’s client to work on a special project in Pemba, Mozambique. As of February 2020, Benthic and Doyle Dennis LLP’s client had mostly completed this project. However, because the client had not yet paid Benthic for the soil samples, Benthic required that Doyle Dennis LLP’s client remain in Mozambique.  In February 2020, in the course and scope of his employment for Benthic on this project, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client developed a urinary tract infection that was ultimately diagnosed as schistosomiasis. This condition is caused by parasitic flatworms that are present in contaminated water in developing countries, like the Republic of Mozambique and the Republic of South Africa.

In response to this serious condition, Benthic failed to provide Doyle Dennis LLP’s client with adequate medical treatment and refused to repatriate him back to the United States.  In March 2020, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client was sent to doctor in Mozambique, but because of the limited medical treatment available in that area, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client could not receive the necessary antibiotics for his infection. Instead, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client had to wait for the order to be transported to South Africa for further treatment.

Unfortunately, due to the inadequate treatment, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client’s condition worsened, including increasing symptoms, blood in his urine, passing stones, and kidney failure.  During this time, Benthic did not attempt to repatriate Doyle Dennis LLP’s client and instead mandated that he stay in Mozambique to attempt to safeguard Benthic’s assets, rather than his declining health.  Because of the severity of his condition, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client’s condition reached the point that he was losing full control of his mental and physical faculties.  On April 11th, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client fainted and fell to the ground, resulting in a laceration on the back of his head that required stitches.

After the fall, Benthic’s on-site security team found Doyle Dennis LLP’s client and took him to a local clinic. Doyle Dennis LLP’s client was diagnosed with a large laceration to the back of his head, which required stitches.  At that time, the clinic also determined that Doyle De74nnis LLP’s client’s blood pressure was dangerously low.  Both Doyle Dennis LLP’s client and other Benthic employees reported these serious conditions to Benthic supervisors in Houston.  During this time, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client suffered severe cognitive issues, including slurred speech, confusion, lack of memory, and exhaustion.  At that time, based on his condition, it was clear that Doyle Dennis LLP’s client lacked mental capacity and required an immediate repatriation to secure necessary treatment.

As part of its insurance program, Benthic had procured a repatriation/evacuation as part of its Zurich Envoy policy, No. ZE 9267211-09 (the “Envoy policy”). Specifically, in Part III Relocation and Repatriation Expenses, Zurich contracted to pay “for additional expenses reasonably incurred for the relocation or repatriation of injured or sick employees covered by this insurance from the location of injury or illness to the employee’s country of citizenship.” This policy contained a coverage limit of $1,000,000.00. This policy applied to the extent that the employee suffered a claim that was covered by the policy foreign compensation policy.  Put differently, because Benthic did not obtain worker’s compensation coverage as described above, this policy applied to Doyle Dennis LLP’s client’s injury and need for repatriation.

Tellingly, on April 27th, Benthic documented that the Plaintiff’s condition had deteriorated and his doctor had approved him for a medevac. The next day, Plaintiff was diagnosed with renal failure.  In response, Benthic acknowledged in an internal email that Doyle Dennis LLP’s client needed to be transported to either Johannesburg, South Africa or Nairobi, Kenya, “as soon as possible.”

That same day, Benthic contacted its insurance broker to report the claim under the Envoy policy for medevac benefits. Benthic noted that the flight to South Africa “is going to cost us roughly $95k so we are still trying to find less expensive options[,] but if there is zero deductible that may change things a bit.” Only one day later, Zurich denied coverage. Specifically, Zurich, through its third-party administrator, stated the following:

In addition to Benthic’s wrongful conduct, this denial was a misrepresentation of the policy because the Envoy policy covered the Plaintiff and provided medevac benefits up to $1,000,000. Indeed, Zurich failed to reasonably investigate and/or evaluate whether the policy covered him, and instead denied the claim, even though liability was reasonably clear.  Even worse, Benthic and Zurich both knew that medical care in Pemba was particularly primitive and dangerous to Plaintiff.

During this same time period, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client and his wife repeatedly and urgently requested that Benthic return Doyle Dennis LLP’s client to the United States for necessary medical treatment.  In response, Benthic’s managers simply stated they were “working on a flight.” In reality, because Zurich denied the claim, Benthic refused to pay the $95,000 cost for the Plaintiff’s medevac costs to South Africa, or Kenya, much less the cost to repatriate Doyle Dennis’s client to the United States.

Trapped in Pemba, Benthic and Zurich forced Doyle Dennis LLP’s client to continue his medical treatment in the Republic of Mozambique.  Because of the severity of his illness and injury, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client lost any awareness or any understanding of his situation. Indeed, during this time period, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client was completely incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions regarding his treatment or the location of his treatment. Doyle Dennis LLP’s client was forced to rely solely on Benthic to make reasonable medical decisions regarding his care, repatriation, and treatment.

As his condition completely deteriorated, Benthic chose to take Doyle Dennis LLP’s client to a hospital in Pemba. At the hospital on or about May 6th, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client received blood transfusions of at least 2 units of blood. Due to the standard of medical care in Pemba, including lack of screening for blood pathogens, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client was transfused with blood and suffered a serious injury.

After he suffered this injury, as a result of the treatment mandated by Benthic, Benthic transferred the Plaintiff to Maputo. During this period, Benthic stopped communicating entirely with Doyle Dennis LLP’s client’s wife and refused to provide any meaningful updates to Doyle Dennis LLP’s client regarding his repatriation. After weeks in the hospital in Mozambique, Doyle Dennis LLP’s client finally returned to the United States. Upon his return, Benthic, through its human resources department, promised it would pay for the Plaintiff’s medical bills. In contrast, Benthic instead terminated Doyle Dennis LLP’s client’s employment, while he still received treatment in the hospital, and Benthic has refused to pay for his medical bills.

Doyle Dennis LLP’s attorneys have focused their legal careers on representing injured workers, who suffer due to the wrongful actions of employers and insurance companies.  If you have suffered a work-place injury and would like an evaluation of your potential legal claim, contact us today for a free evaluation.