Attorney Kirk Presley helped recover $3.5 million for the family of a 54-year-old man who died in a power plant explosion near Weston, Mo. 

Presley acted as lead counsel for the plaintiffs, who won nearly $12.21 million in combined verdicts. The very technical case largely came down to a debate about whether the blame for the explosion lay with a poorly made valve or the managing of the Iatan, Mo. power plant.

The Accident

In 2007, a high-pressure steam pipe erupted in the Iatan power plant, killing two men and injuring a third. Thomas McCool, 54, was just a few months from retirement and happened to be working on a piece of equipment nearby. He suffered burns over 90 percent of his body and died the next day, leaving a wife and adult children. The power plant shut down for 18 days following the incident.

The Case

The case against Halliburton Energy Services Inc. involved several plaintiffs, including the families of the men who were killed in the explosion, the survivor, and plant operator KCP&L. Halliburton retained liability for the valve following a previous merger and divestiture of the valve’s manufacturer.

McCool’s family claimed $67,000 in medical expenses and $1.68 million in lost future income and loss of services. Pretrial, the defendants had offered the burn victims $500,000 each.

The plaintiffs claimed that a defectively manufactured valve had a steep outlet angle that prompted thinning in the wall of a pipe immediately downstream from the valve, causing it to rupture. The line used extreme pressure to heat water to 360 degrees.

However, Halliburton argued that KCP&L had contributed to the failure by running its water chemistry at a low pH level, that the pipe that failed had extremely low chromium, and that the valve wasn’t defective but had been altered by KCP&L in the field.

The plaintiffs’ expert witness, Dr. Chong Chiu, had a doctorate from MIT in fluid dynamics and thermal transfer, as well as extensive experience in the nuclear power industry. His testimony proved vital in winning such a technical case.

The Victory

Ultimately, the jury sided with the plaintiffs, handing over a $12.21 million combined verdict. Missouri allows for different categories of damages, so a Platte County jury awarded $3.5 million for the McCool family’s claims, as well as for the loss of companionship and support for his wife, Joyce.

Joyce has used part of the money to set up a fund that benefits the burn nurses at the University of Kansas Hospital. The Thomas McCool Memorial Award is a regular cash gift for the most deserving nurse in the burn unit.


Burn injuries are among the most painful and debilitating injuries a person can sustain. Along with visible skin damage, severe burns can cause significant harm to bodily functions. And most of the time, these injuries could have been prevented. When burn injuries are caused by the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

At Presley & Presley, our Kansas City burn injury attorneys provide aggressive and personalized legal representation for a variety of catastrophic injury claims, including burn injuries.

We can conduct our own thorough investigation into your case, gather and analyze evidence of negligence, and use our state-of-the-art preparation and technology to help you recover the compensation you deserve.

We can guide you through each step of this legal process. Call Presley & Presley at 816.931.4611 to schedule a free consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay any attorney fees unless we win your case.

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