Two Lawsuits Filed, More Likely to Come in Texas Plant Explosion
Washington, D.C. (Law Firm Newswire) May 21, 2013 - A Texas fertilizer plant exploded, killing at least 15 people and injuring as many as 200.
The explosion on April 17, 2013, occurred at a facility owned by the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas that was used for the storage and distribution of fertilizers. The building caught fire, then exploded as firefighters tried to extinguish the flames. The cause of the fire remains unknown.
“Fertilizers are quite hazardous and require very stringent safety protocols in their handling and storage,” said David Lietz, a Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer who specializes in industrial accidents. “Depending on what investigators discover, West Fertilizer Company could face an array of lawsuits.”
Even several days after the accident, the count of deaths and injuries had yet to be finalized, and some people were still missing. At least 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed, including a nursing home, a middle school, and an apartment complex.
Two lawsuits have already been filed in McLennan County district court. One suit, filed by insurance companies on behalf of a group of individuals and businesses, claims Adair Grain, Inc. – the parent company of West Fertilizer Company – was negligent in the operation of the plant, which led to the fire and subsequent explosion. That lawsuit does not yet list demands for damages
The other lawsuit, filed by Andrea Jones Gutierrez, seeks between $500,000 and $1 million in damages. Gutierrez lived near the plant in an apartment building that was destroyed by the blast. Her lawsuit claims she suffered unspecified physical and emotional injuries, in addition to losing all her possessions.
“Other possible targets for lawsuits are the manufacturers of the fertilizers stored at the plant and the companies that transported them there,” added Lietz. “Investigators will need to determine whether the chemicals were manufactured and handled properly.”
According to a New York Times report, records at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show the plant was last inspected 28 years ago. That inspection uncovered five “serious” violations including improper handling and storage of anhydrous ammonia. The plant stored 110,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia and 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate in late 2012 according to a report West Fertilizer made to the EPA at that time.
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