The city of West will receive $10.44 million in its settlement with defendants in the massive litigation spawned by the April 2013 fire and explosion at West Fertilizer Co.
The West City Council approved the settlement amount this week, which includes funds for damages not covered by insurance or grants from state or federal agencies, said Waco attorney Steve Harrison, who was among a group of attorneys representing the city of West and chairman of the plaintiffs’ executive committee.
“The resolution brings to a conclusion more than 4 1/2 years of litigation by the city against the fertilizer manufacturers,” Harrison said. “This is a very good outcome for the community and we could not be more pleased for the folks of West.”
The city of West is required by law to disclose the amount of legal settlements and did so after receiving a Public Information Act request from the Tribune-Herald.
Under the terms of the settlement, CF Industries, a fertilizer manufacturer, will pay $6.4 million; El Dorado Chemical will pay $3.9 million; and Adair Grain Inc., which owned the fertilizer plant, will pay $143,000. International Chemical is included in the settlements with CF Industries and El Dorado Chemical, Harrison said.
West Mayor Tommy Muska said in a statement Wednesday he is pleased with the settlement and hopes the citizens of West will be, too.
“First, I would like to acknowledge the superior work of many great attorneys led by Mr. Steve Harrison. His law firm not only took a professional interest in this case for the citizens of West, but they also took a personal position; a position that is rare in this day and time,” Muska said. “I want thank everyone at Harrison Davis Steakley Morrison Jones for their hard and diligent work on our behalf.”
Muska said the settlement will ensure the financial health of the city of West for years to come, adding that “with careful planning, the funds will improve the city’s damaged infrastructure.”
The devastating blast killed 15 people and injured hundreds while leveling a large section of town. The explosion damaged streets, water lines, sewer systems and other city infrastructure.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of the city claimed the defendants were negligent in selling or distributing the ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer, that they failed to properly warn of the dangers associated with handling and storage of the product and never should have sold the product to West Fertilizer.
The defendants disputed the claims, saying they were not responsible for the fire or the explosion.
The settlement was reached before the latest trial was to have been held on Jan. 16. Judge Jim Meyer of Waco’s 170th State District Court canceled the trial and postponed another trial setting for at least 90 days while the parties continue trying to resolve the 100 to 150 remaining claims.
The Jan. 16 trial setting was the fifth trial date Meyer has canceled in recent years after settlements were reached before trial.
West Rest Haven, a nursing home badly damaged in the explosion, also reached a settlement before the latest trial date. That settlement is confidential.
Other plaintiffs involved in the most recent trial group included four nursing home employees and 10 insurance companies who filed claims to recover funds already paid out.
Attorneys Zona Jones, Bryan Harrison, Matt Morrison, Mark Grotefeld and Pat Gareis also represented the city of West.