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.

Editor’s note: Many college students rely on their parents’ health insurance plan, but soon they may well be on their own and planning to care for their parents. What should students look out for in the long-anticipated U.S. Supreme Court Affordable Care Act (ACA) decision and its aftermath? UT faculty members give their opinions, which have been edited for clarity.

“It is difficult to predict what the Supreme Court will do. But one thing is certain: The Court’s decision could affect many young adults who are now covered under their parents’ policies if the mandate is struck down. Nationwide, and in Texas, this age segment of the population is most likely to be uninsured. Even so, the young population is generally healthy and, on average, coverage [for them] costs less than for the old. As a result, insurers may want to keep this section of the law.”
Jacqueline Angel, Professor of Public Affairs and Sociology
LBJ School of Public Affairs

“Many will be covered on their parents’ plan until [age] 26,even if the ACA is found unconstitutional, at least for a while, since insurance contracts often run through the first of the year. And, in many cases, employers and insurance companies will keep that benefit in place. UT, for instance, offered [the option] to its employees to keep children on their health insurance so long as [the children] were not married or eligible for employee coverage. In terms of caring for their parents in the future, the ACA will not be terribly relevant since the ACA does not change Medicare coverage for those over 65. It does have some reductions in cost for pharmaceuticals while in the donut hole [the commonly used name for a Medicare coverage gap] and also makes a number of preventive services free under Medicare. Also, if their parents intend to retire before 65 and do not have employer-based coverage, the ACA will make buying coverage cheaper and more transparent than presently.”
David Warner, Professor in Health and Social Policy
LBJ School of Public Affairs

“The future of the parental coverage (until the age of 26) provision of the ACA is very much up in the air. The Supreme Court could uphold the ACA’s individual mandate provision, and then there’s no problem for students. It could also write a narrow opinion scrapping the individual mandate but leaving the rest intact (legally). It could also write a broad opinion and strike the whole ACA down. That would be bad for students needing parental coverage.

However, (a) some insurance companies have said they will maintain the parental coverage provision in their policies, even if the ACA is struck down. And (b), some Republicans are interested in reenacting some of the ACA’s more popular provisions, like the parental coverage provision, if the ACA is struck down. Other Republicans, however, want to eliminate every bit of ACA’s DNA down to its last molecule.

Importantly, even if insurance companies voluntarily keep parental coverage and/or Congress reenacts it, and if the individual mandate is struck down, there is serious question as to whether parental coverage and other provisions of the ACA, such as barring the refusal of coverage due to preexisting conditions, would be economically sustainable.”
Robert Prentice, Professor of Business Law
McCombs School of Business

“Whether or not the individual mandate is upheld, young people will need to think about finding jobs that include health insurance or finding health insurance plans they can afford to pay for out of pocket. One accident or illness could easily cause them to owe as much as or more than they do in student loans. Most important: Young people can help in figuring out how to rein in health care costs and develop a system that provides Americans of all ages access to routine as well as catastrophic health care.”
Diana DiNitto, Professor in Alcohol Studies and Education
School of Social Work

“The requirement for insurers to allow parents to insure their children until 26 has been very popular. Although the Republicans do not support health care reform, they have stated that they would want to continue this provision. If the Supreme Court supports health care reform, students will be required to purchase insurance from their employer or from a state or federal health care exchange. In the past, many young adults have forgone health insurance. Under health care reform, this choice would lead to tax penalties. In terms of parents, health care reform does expand coverage for things not currently covered by Medicare (e.g. prescription drugs), which will decrease the financial burden on parents and/or their children. Health care reform is also purported to be a method for containing rising health care costs, so both parents and children will, one might hope, pay less out of pocket for their insurance over time than they will if the health care reform law is overturned.”
Kristie J. Loescher, Senior Lecturer
McCombs School of Business