Victims start suing owners of West, Texas fertilizer plant

Victims start suing owners of West, Texas fertilizer plant
Two separate lawsuits have been filed against the owner of a Texas fertilizer plant, which exploded last week and killed 15 people. With 75 demolished homes and more than 200 injuries, a firestorm of lawsuits may soon follow.

The first two lawsuits accuse Adair Grain Inc., the company that owned the West, Texas fertilizer plant that exploded April 17, of negligence.

One of the lawsuits was filed by Andrea Jones Gutierrez, a single working mother who claims that she and her 14-year-old son “lost all of their worldly possessions”. The two lived in the apartment building next to the West Fertilizer plant, which was completely destroyed during the explosion.

Gutierrez had stepped out of the complex when she first heard the explosions, and her son was at church during the deadly blasts. Two other residents who remained in the apartment complex died during the explosion. While the Gutierrez family survived, they lost their homes and belongings and the woman suffered multiple injuries.

“Everything she and her child owned was completely destroyed,” Randy Roberts, the woman’s attorney, told NBC News. “She has physical and emotional injuries, but I’m more concerned about her emotional injuries.”

She is now seeking $500,000 to $1 million in relief from Adair Grain Inc.

Firefighters salute in front of caskets and pictures of their colleagues during a memorial service at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, on April 25, 2013 for the firefighters who were killed in a huge blast at a Texas fertilizer plant last week (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

A second lawsuit against Adair Grain was filed by a group of insurance companies, which claim that the plant’s parent company“was negligent in the operation of its facility, creating an unreasonably dangerous condition, which led to the fire and explosion.”

The suit was filed jointly by Acadia Insurance Company, Union Standard Lloyds, Continental Western Insurance Company, and Union Standard Insurance Company – all of which sued on behalf of the residents, churches and businesses in the town of Waco.

“Defendant’s negligent acts and omissions were the proximate cause of the explosion that resulted in damages to the plaintiffs, including the destruction [of] real and personal property and lost profits,” the insurers’ lawsuit states.  The suit accuses Adair’s employees of being unqualified, incompetent and improperly licensed for their jobs maintaining or operating the plant.

Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the explosion, but have ruled out natural causes. The lawsuit filed by the insurers does not list a specific demand for damages, since many homeowners and businesses do not yet know the value of what they have lost, Dallas lawyer Paul Grinke told Reuters.

An aerial picture, taken from a helicopter following US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, shows the devastation at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, on April 25, 2013 (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

An aerial picture, taken from a helicopter following US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, shows the devastation at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, on April 25, 2013

Some of the victims lost nearly all of their possessions, and have nothing besides the clothes they were wearing on the day of the explosions, Grinke explained.

“This is just to get the legal process initiated,” he said in regards to the lawsuit. “Most of my clients and the folks I’m representing have not been able to get back to their property to see what’s left of it. I have gotten pretty close, and it is true devastation.”

Daniel Kenney, a spokesman representing Adair Grain, told media sources that the company would not comment on the lawsuits at this time.

“Our focus is on the fact-finding and on assisting the investigating agencies in any way we can,” he told Reuters.