The first lawsuits against West Fertilizer Co. and Adair Grain have been filed

Alberto Long

A single mother and several insurance companies are among the first to sue West Fertilizer Co. and its parent company Adair Grain, Inc. for the devastating fertilizer plant explosion in West.

The first two lawsuits filed against the proprietors of the fertilizer plant cite negligence as the cause of the explosion. One of the lawsuits also accuses Adair Grain’s employees of being unqualified and improperly licensed for their jobs at the plant. According to new estimates by the Insurance Council of Texas, the blast destroyed approximately 140 homes, left 15 people dead and up to 200 injured.

Andrea Jones Gutierrez, a single mother who claims she and her son “lost all worldly possessions and suffered physical as well as emotion injuries,” filed a lawsuit Monday.

According to the lawsuit, Gutierrez is asking for between $500,000 and $1 million in monetary relief.

In a statement, Gutierrez’s attorney, Randy C. Roberts, said legal action was required because the owners of Adair Grain have yet to claim responsibility for the explosion.

“[Adair Grain has] done nothing for the victims,” Roberts said. “You can read [Adair Grains’] statement online. I challenge you to find the words ‘I’m sorry.’ They don’t acknowledge any responsibility.”

In his statement, Donald Adair, a “longtime” resident of West who owns Adair Grain, said he is saddened by the tragedy which “will continue to hurt for generations to come.”

“The owners and employees of Adair Grain and West Fertilizer Co. are working closely with investigating agencies,” Adair said. “We pledge to do everything we can to understand what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again in any community.”

Daniel Kenney, a spokesman for Adair Grain, said the company would not comment on the lawsuits at this time.

The first lawsuit against the fertilizer plant was filed April 19 by a group of insurance companies claiming Adair Grains “was negligent in the operation of its facility, creating an unreasonably dangerous condition, which led to the fire and explosion.”

The four companies – Acadia Insurance Co., Union Standard Lloyds, Continental Western Insurance Co. and Union Standard Insurance Co. – are suing on behalf of residents, churches and local businesses affected by the blast.

Roberts said he knows of two more lawsuits that have been filed since Gutierrez filed her suit on Monday.

“I can understand a fire being the product of natural causes — an explosion that devastates half a town should not happen in the natural course of events,” Roberts said.