Jurors For West Explosion Lawsuit Dismissed After Parties Reach Agreement

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WACO (October 11, 2015) More than 280 prospective jurors who were to meet Monday at the McLennan County Courthouse have been told not to show up after parties in the pending west explosion lawsuit reached an agreement over the weekend.

Some 400 prospective jurors were called Friday to appear to be qualified to serve on the jury and that number was paired to 283, McLennan County District Clerk Jon Gimble said Sunday afternoon.

Gimble told News 10 that 170th District Judge Jim Meyer instructed him to dismiss the panel and there would be no need for the trial.

“The claims of the trial group plaintiffs have been resolved between the parties set for trial on Monday and there will be no trial (on Monday)”, lead plaintiff’s counsel Waco attorney Steve Harrison said Sunday afternoon.

The trial that had been set for Monday was to have been the first of many that grew out of the April 17, 2013 explosion at the West fertilizer plant that killed 15, injured more than 150 and destroyed dozens of homes and businesses, including school buildings and a nursing home.

Though prospective jurors in the West case were dismissed, Gimble said jurors who were called for other duties in other district courts still must show up on Monday.

The decision on the case set for Monday has no bearing on the dozens of cases left on the court’s docket that grew out of the tragedy.

Lawyers for the defendants tried unsuccessfully to be granted summary judgements in the case that in effect would have brought the lawsuits to an end because they said the plaintiff’s could not provide ample evidence of responsibility for the devastating explosion.

Meyer denied that motion on August 21, saying there is sufficient evidence that negligence on the part of the defendants existed and that the matter should be decided by a jury.

In January 2014 lawyers representing about 200 plaintiffs in the series of lawsuits filed a new petition that specifically details what they say happened and who should be responsible.

The defendants now include El Dorado Chemical Co., CF Industries Sales, of Wilmington, Delaware, CF Industries Holdings, CF Industries Inc., CF Industries Enterprises, CF Industries Nitrogen LLC, all of Deerfield, Illinois, International Chemical Company, of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Adair Grain, Inc., of West.

CF Industries is the second largest nitrogen fertilizer producer and third largest phosphate fertilizer producer among public companies in the world, according to information on the company's Website.

In a report issued August 14, 2014, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board released the findings of a months-long investigation of the deadly April 17, 2013 West fertilizer plant explosion, which officials say could have been prevented.

The board's investigation did not uncover significant new details about what happened or identify the cause of the fire, but it does underscore the need for more regulation, officials said.

The plant’s owners failed to take the necessary measures to prevent a fire, officials said, pointing out that the ammonium nitrate that exploded was stored in a wooden building that did not have a fire-suppressing sprinkler system.

"The fire and explosion at West Fertilizer was preventable, " board Chairman Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso said.

"It resulted from the failure of a company to take the necessary steps to avert a preventable fire and explosion and from the inability of federal, state and local regulatory agencies to identify a serious hazard and correct it," he said.

Agencies at all levels must do more to monitor facilities that store the chemical, board Moure-Eraso said earlier during a news conference in Dallas.

(John Carroll contributed to this story.)