Dozens of victims of the West Fertilizer Co. explosion in West, Texas have fallen in line with the city and filed suit against CF Industries, a producer of ammonium nitrate.
Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, used to feed crops, were stored at West Fertilizer. The volatile chemical compound exploded April 17 following a fire at the retailer. The force of the blast destroyed more than 100 homes, an apartment complex, two schools and a retirement center. The cause of the fire was never determined.
The city of West filed suit against West Fertilizer and Illinois-based CF Industries in June, claiming the fertilizer manufacturer “knew of the dangers associated with the manufacture and use of ammonium nitrate and failed in their duty to exercise care commensurate with and proportionate to the combined danger of formulating, designing, manufacturing, supplying and/or marketing of ammonium nitrate.”
Attention has turned to CF Industries since it was found West Fertilizer, owned by Adair Grain, possessed just $1 million in liability insurance—no excess or umbrella coverage. The Insurance Council of Texas estimates $100 million in insured property losses from the blast.
The city has millions of dollars in uninsured losses to its infrastructure, for instance, and turned to CF Industries—a multi-billion-dollar company and one of the world’s largest fertilizer manufacturers—to hold responsible for the disaster.
Attorney Mo Aziz of Abraham Watkins and Chad Pinkerton of The Pinkerton Law Firm say they represent and seek compensation for more than 30 victims of the explosion, including the family of a deceased fire fighter. A dozen first responders died in the explosion. Fifteen people died as a direct result of the blast but about a dozen displaced residents of the nursing facility have died since the disaster.
Like the city, Aziz and Pinkerton similarly allege CF Industries should have inspected West Fertilizer to make sure the site stored the fertilizer correctly. And the manufacturer should have included an additive in the product to make it safer, the attorneys say.
Several lawsuits were filed against Adair Grain shortly after the explosion. Multiple companies within the W.R. Berkley Corp. group of insurers are among those who have filed suit, claiming negligence on the part of the Adair family. The subrogation suit looks to recoup money paid by Berkley to insureds including individuals, a bank, a car dealership, a TV and appliance store, a bakery, an auto parts store, two churches and an inn.
PC360 visited West and spoke to Mayor Tommy Muska—also an insurance agent, firefighter and victim of the blast—about the struggle to restore the small, farming community.