Despite having hundreds of tons of highly explosive fertilizer on site, it turns out the West fertilizer plant had only $1 million in liability insurance. MJB mentioned it in a comment in a diary I posted earlier about the plant's lax security practices, but this is so outrageous it merits its own diary.
The cause of the blast is still under investigation. Should the company be found negligent, that amount of coverage probably would pay only a fraction of the claims.West Fertilizer's attorney has admitted the insurance his clients have on hand won't even begin to cover the final damage bill. Incredibly, Texas law doesn't require fertilizer facilities to have liability insurance, even when they have highly explosive chemicals on hand.
Property damage alone in West could reach $100 million, according to the Insurance Council of Texas, an industry association. The April 17 explosion destroyed an apartment complex and seriously damaged a nursing home and a school. Several hundred homes also sustained damage, with some leveled to the foundation.
An attorney for United States Fire Insurance Co. of Morristown, N.J., confirmed Friday that West Fertilizer had $1 million in liability coverage “with no excess or umbrella coverage.”
When Randy Roberts, a lawyer for one of the victims, found out about how little insurance West Fertilizer had on hand, he hit the ceiling.
“A million dollars is a pathetic amount for this type of dangerous activity,” Roberts said.From the looks of it, the only way the victims may get any money is if they personally sue plant owner Donald Adair. He's probably not hurting for any money--and given the circumstances, he definitely needs to be taken for every penny he has.
“If you want to drive a truck down the interstate, you’ve got to have $750,000 in coverage, even if you’re just carrying eggs,” Roberts said. “But if you want to put this ammonium nitrate into this town next to that school and that nursing home and those houses, you’re not required to carry insurance.”
Roberts said he and other attorneys who have filed suit against West Fertilizer were notified of the policy limits Thursday. “So many people have suffered, I don’t think anyone’s going to get a fair shake,” he said.