Plaintiffs seeking damages from the April 17 explosion at West Fertilizer Co. in West amended their petition Friday, adding two new defendants to the burgeoning litigation. Attorneys representing about 200 individual plaintiffs, including the city of West, named International Chemical Co., of Tulsa, Okla., and CF Industries Nitrogen, a Delaware corporation, as defendants in a new pleading Friday.
Waco attorney Pete Rusek, one of the attorneys representing the CF Industry defendants, said Friday he had not seen the new petition and declined comment.
A spokesman for International Chemical Co. did not return phone calls Friday.
Attorneys on both sides of the lawsuits met last week with 170th State District Judge Jim Meyer to discuss discovery issues and to update him on the progress both sides are making to prepare for trial.
Attorneys are aiming for the first trial to be held about a year from now, but defense attorneys told Meyer last week that date seemed “optimistic,” according to their preparations.
Meyer has appointed a nine-member executive steering committee of plaintiff and defense lawyers and a steering committee with one lawyer from each of 24 law firms with a client in the litigation.
Meyer is presiding over all pretrial matters in the 14 lawsuits that have been filed so far in three of the county’s state district courts.
The new petition alleges International Chemical Co. bought two separate 100-ton shipments of ammonium nitrate manufactured by CF Industries in March and April 2013 and shipped it to West Fertilizer Co.
At the time of the explosion, the April shipment of 100 tons of agricultural grade ammonium nitrate remained in a rail car on a rail spur on the north side of the fertilizer mixing building at the plant, the suit alleges.
The March rail-car shipment had been unloaded and placed inside two wooden bins located inside the fertilizer mixing building. An estimated 30 tons of ammonium nitrate from the March shipment was inside the building when a fire of undetermined origin caused it to explode.
The first lawsuit was filed two days after the blast that killed 15 people, injured 200 and damaged schools, a nursing home, an apartment complex, businesses and about 350 homes, mostly on the town’s north side.
The first suits named Adair Grain, doing business as West Fertilizer Co., as the sole defendant. But in a suit filed June 21, the city of West became the first to also name Deerfield, Ill.-based CF Industries as a defendant.
After that, a number of plaintiffs intervened in that lawsuit or amended their pleadings to include CFI and a number of its subsidiaries as defendants. CF Industries manufactures agricultural-grade ammonium nitrate at its plant in Yazoo City, Miss., which ended up at West Fertilizer, the suits allege.
Plaintiffs have been divided into three distinct groups — those who lost loved ones, those injured in the blast and those with property damage.