Sunday, September 24, 2023
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Plant Owner Faces Pair of Lawsuits Over Explosion

(CN) - A single mother and several insurance companies filed the first two lawsuits against the owner of a fertilizer plant that exploded last week, killing 15 people, injuring 200 and leveling homes in West, Texas.

Andrea Jones Gutierrez, a single, working mother, claims she and her teenage son "lost all of their worldly possessions" when her apartment near the plant was destroyed in the April 17 explosion.

She also suffered unspecified physical and emotional injuries, according to the lawsuit in McLennan County District Court.

Gutierrez wants Adair Grain, the parent company of West Fertilizer Co., to pay up to $1 million for their losses.

Several insurance companies filed the second lawsuit, claiming Adair "was negligent in the operation of its facility, creating an unreasonably dangerous condition, which led to the fire and explosion."

"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.

Acadia Insurance Company, Continental Western Insurance Company, Union Standard Lloyds and Union Standard Insurance Company sued on behalf of residents, two churches and businesses in the small town north of Waco.

They say Adair's employees or contractors were "not qualified, incompetent or properly licensed to inspect, maintain, and/or operate equipment at the subject fertilizer plant facility."

Investigators have not said what caused the explosion.

The fertilizer plant was cited and fined $2,300 in 2006 for federal environmental violations, the Environmental Protection Agency said last week. The plant failed to update a risk management plan and had poor employee-training records, the agency said, but it later corrected the problems.

The massive blast last week destroyed more than 75 homes and damaged numerous structures, including a nursing home and a middle school.

The insurance companies are represented by Paul Grinke of McCathern PLLC in Dallas, and Gutierrez is represented by Randy Roberts of Roberts & Roberts in Tyler, Texas.

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