WEST (October 18, 2013)—The first of 14 lawsuits seeking damages stemming from the deadly April 17 explosion from Donald Adair and the West Fertilizer Company were set for trial on Oct. 6, 2014 on Friday.
A marathon meeting of as many as 40 lawyers in District Judge Jim Meyer’s 170th District Court on Friday was aimed at ironing out a schedule and beginning to outline how plaintiffs’ attorneys can seek discovery on evidence, said Steve Harrison, a Waco lawyer who is serving as chairman of the plaintiffs’ council.
All of the lawsuits were filed over the April 17 explosion and fire that killed 15 people, injured scores more and destroyed dozens of homes and buildings.
Harrison said the hearing lasted just a little more than an hour and no one but lawyers were in the packed courtroom.
Specific cases were not set for the first trial date but Harrison said it is likely the first cases heard will be those that involve deaths of firefighters or other first responders.
Two more trial dates, one in January and one on March 2015, were set aside as well but again no specific cases were assigned to those dates.
The lawsuits were filed individually in three different courts including the 74th, 170th and 414th District Courts and when specific cases are assigned for trial they’ll be heard in the court in which they were originally filed, Harrison said.
But the pre-trial issues have been heard by Meyer in the 170th court.
The action Friday means plaintiff’s lawyers can begin to gather evidence they are seeking through discovery and can begin to take depositions.
Some of the cases could be settled without going to trial, McLennan County Karen Matkin said, and those will be individually dealt with.
Any case that cannot be settled out of court will have to be set for trial.
Cases that are set for trial and have "issues of commonality" could be heard together on one court, Matkin said, but those that do not meet those criteria will have to be set for individual trials in separate courts.