A civil trial set to begin Tuesday involving damages from the April 2013 West Fertilizer Co. explosion has been canceled after parties, including the city of West and West Rest Haven Nursing Home, reached settlements and partial settlements.
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 massive litigation.
Tuesday’s trial setting was the fifth trial date Meyer has canceled in recent years after settlements were reached before trial.
Waco attorney Steve Harrison, who serves as spokesman for the plaintiffs, said the city of West and the nursing home reached settlements with CF Industries but have unresolved claims remaining against the other major defendant in the case, El Dorado.
Besides El Dorado and CF Industries, other defendants involved in the litigation include International Chemical Co. and Adair Grain Co.
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.
Harrison said the settlements are confidential. He declined to divulge the amounts, including the amount the city of West recovered from El Dorado.
West Mayor Tommy Muska also declined to discuss the settlement amount, saying the city remains in litigation with the other defendants. He said the West City Council met Thursday night to approve the settlement amount and discussed the issue in closed, executive session.
“I am not going to give you a number because we are still in court and we don’t want the other company to know what we are doing. We are still in litigation with the other company and we are technically still in the lawsuit,” Muska said.
Muska declined to reveal the amount of the settlement despite a Texas attorney general opinion that says cities legally cannot enter into confidential lawsuit settlements and the terms are subject to disclosure through the Public Information Act.
Harrison said plaintiffs for the next trial group have not been selected. He said after the last round of settlements last summer that 75 percent of the 215 claims filed after the blast have been resolved.
The explosion at West Fertilizer Co. devastated a large portion of the city and left 15 dead and dozens injured.
The defendants either manufactured or sold the fertilizer that caught fire and exploded. The lawsuits allege the nitrogen-based fertilizer was defectively designed, manufactured and marketed.
They also allege that defendants were negligent in the way the product was distributed and by failing to provide adequate warnings of the fertilizer’s danger in the event of fire.
The defendants have denied the allegations.