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Texas Town Settles Suit Over Chemical Explosion For $10.4M

January 25, 2018

The city of West, Texas, announced Wednesday that it has reached a $10.4 million settlement with the manufacturers and suppliers of ammonium nitrate that the city blamed for contributing to a deadly fertilizer explosion that rocked the small town in 2013.


The city said the settlement includes $6.4 million from CF Industries, $3.9 million from El Dorado Chemical, and $143,000 from Adair Grain, which the city had alleged were negligent in supplying agricultural-grade ammonium nitrate to West 
Fertilizer and not properly warning about the risks of handling and storing it, contributing to the devastating blast that killed 15 people in West. The agreement came just before trial was scheduled to begin on Jan. 16, according to West.


“The resolution brings to a conclusion more than four and a half years of litigation by the city against the fertilizer manufacturers,” Steve Harrison, one of the attorneys for the city, said in a statement. “This is a very good outcome for the community and we could not be more pleased for the folks of West.”


The explosion at West Fertilizer leveled parts of the town, killing 15, injuring 200 and causing significant damage to the city’s infrastructure, including water and sewer systems. The explosion inspired tougher regulatory oversight from the Obama administration.


Federal regulators eventually ruled that the explosion was caused by a fire that was intentionally set, though no one has been charged in connection with the fire.


The arson finding complicated but did not end lawsuits both by individuals and the city, which continued to allege that CF, El Dorado and Adair Grain were negligent by shipping huge quantities of ammonium nitrate to the West Fertilizer facility without ensuring that the substance was safely stored and without providing safety information to the facility.


While settlements with individuals related to the explosion have been confidential, the city of West said in a press release that it is required by law to disclose the information when requested.


Attorneys for West also noted that the settlement would prevent lengthy appeals from a jury trial, which they estimated could stretch on for three or four years.


Representatives of the companies did not respond to requests for comment.


The city of West is represented by Steve Harrison, Zona Jones, Bryan Harrison and Matt Morrison of Harrison Davis Steakley Morrison Jones PC, and Mark Grotefeld and Pat Gareis of Grotefeld Hoffman.


Counsel information for the defendants was not available Wednesday.


The case is city of West, Texas v. CF Industries Sales LLC et al., number 2013-2476, in the District Court of McLennan County, Texas.


*This article was curated from the Law360.

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*Kyle Sampson is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the National Board of Legal Specialty and Texas Board of Legal Specialization