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Products Liability

City sues both owner and supplier of fertilizer plant that exploded

Posted Jun 26, 2013 2:30 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The city of West, Texas, has filed a product liability lawsuit against both the owner of a fertilizer plant where a fiery explosion detonated with the force of an earthquake in April and the chemical company that supplied it with ammonium nitrate, Courthouse News reports.

Defendant CF Industries and two affiliates sold the plant—defendant Adair Grain Inc. doing business as West Fertilizer Co.—two 100-ton shipments of ammonium nitrate in March and April without out taking adequate measures to ensure the safety of those near the plant, the McClennan County Court complaint alleges. It says the plant negligently stored the fertilizer, which exploded April 17 after being heated by a fire at the plant.

Fifteen people died, many more were injured and 150 homes and other buildings, including a school and a nursing home, were damaged or destroyed by the blast.

"The CF Industries defendants, in the best position to know and understand the full nature of the dangers of the product manufactured by them, made no effort to determine the risk to the community into which their product was shipped," according to the complaint. "Instead, they blindly sold hundreds of tons of hazardous ammonium nitrate to West Fertilizer Co. and delivered it to a facility located within a community of people, houses, parks, schools and a nursing home."

The suit, which was filed Friday in Waco, says CF didn't supply the West plant with a standard material safety data sheet, as required by law, never inspected the plant to see whether safety measures were adequate and did not include an additive in its ammonium nitrate that could have prevented the explosion and fire.

It seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

A spokesman for the plant owner declined to comment when contacted by the Dallas Morning News.

A spokeswoman for CF provided a written statement to Bloomberg on the company's behalf and said it intends to seek dismissal of the complaint.

"CF Industries is sympathetic to those whose lives were affected by this unfortunate incident," the statement says. "CF Industries believes, however, that there is no basis for this suit."

The Associated Press, CNN and the Waco Tribune also have stories.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Could better regulatory enforcement have prevented deadly Texas fertilizer plant explosion?"

ABAJournal.com: "Fertilizer explosion caused some $100M in damage; plant had ‘pathetic’ $1M in insurance"

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