Texas court delays by six months start of West Fertilizer trial

02 May 2014 23:05 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The first of the civil trials related to the deadly and destructive 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer distribution facility has been delayed six months and is now scheduled for June 2015, state district court officials confirmed on Friday.

On 17 April 2013, an ammonium nitrate fuelled explosion at West Fertilizer in the central Texas town of West killed 15 and injured another 200 when an undetermined fire started and ignited the stockpiles of the crop nutrient.

Judge Jim Meyer, 170th state district, ruled on Thursday to postpone the proceedings after the defendant’s lawyers successful argued for additional time to prepare for the trial which is anticipated to be complex and lengthy in scope, court officials said.

More than 200 residents, victims’ families, business owners and insurers have filed lawsuits against West Fertilizer, parent company Adair Grain, fertilizer producer CF Industries and other companies that allegedly sold ammonium nitrate supplies to the plant.

The plaintiffs's claims have asserted that not only the retailer and its owners but also the fertilizer suppliers had a responsibility to ensure the products were not only shipped but stored in a safe manner.

The plaintiffs have been divided into three trial groups with the court having previously set the first trial to begin January 2015. The defendants include El Dorado Chemical, CF Industries, International Chemical Company and Adair Grain.

According to the claims within the lawsuits, CF in March and April of 2013 made two shipments of fertilizer to the West Fertilizer, each of which totalled 100 tons. It alleges that the March shipment already had been unloaded from railroad cars and was stored inside the company's building.

It was from that stockpile where the fire eventually caused the explosion, the petition said, while the April shipment was found by investigators to be stored outside the building in railroad cars.

By Mark Milam