In May of 2012, a driveshaft fell off a tractor-trailer traveling down FM 133 in Dimmit County, flew through the windshield of an oncoming vehicle, and struck the passenger of that vehicle—Carlos Aguilar—in the face. Aguilar died at the hospital the same day. The tractor-trailer was owned by Heckmann Water Resources, which transports wastewater from Eagle Ford Shale operations.  

On Dec. 7, 2013, a jury found that Heckmann was negligent in Aguilar’s wrongful death. The jury awarded Aguilar’s surviving wife, five children, and parents $281 million. One hundred million dollars of this was for punitive damages. “The verdict is the largest ever to my knowledge in auto accidents with oil trucks in the Eagle Ford Shale area,” said the family’s counsel, Ronald Rodriguez, of the Law Office of Ronald Rodriguez in Laredo.

Commercial interest in the Eagle Ford Shale site—which produces a great deal of natural gas and oil—has benefited the South Texas economy; but as the number of semitrailers on the road has increased, so too has the number of traffic-related deaths.

Heckmann’s parent company, Nuverra Environmental Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz., has indicated that it will appeal the decision.