The first lawsuits have been filed in connection with last week's devastating explosion at a fertilizer plant in West Texas that killed 14 people and caused widespread damage to the community, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The list of the 22 plaintiffs in one lawsuit reads like a snapshot of small town America. They include a Chevy dealer, several restaurants, an auto supply shop, and two churches, as well as several individuals.
Dallas Attorney Paul Grinke, who is the lead attorney in the lawsuit, concedes that it is early to be filing a civil claim, with the cause of the explosion undetermined. He says he can't even list a demand for damages because many of his clients don't know what they've lost.
"This is just to get the legal process initiated," he todl 1200 WOAI news. "Most of my clients and the folks I'm representing have not been able to get back to their property to see what's left of it. I have gotten pretty close, and it is true devastation."
Grinke says his clients just want a 'seat at the table' to participate in the investigation.
"The ATF and EPA and governmental agencies are conducting their investigation now," he said. "We want our fire experts to be able to conduct our investigation. We will go where the evidence leads us."
In the small town spirit which has characterized the response to the explosion, Grinke says he has no desire to 'hang the owners of the fertilizer company out to dry.'
"Our goal will be at the end of the day, after we are able to determine what the heck happened, will be to recover money not just for the insurance carriers, but for the homeowners, to reimburse them for all their expenses," he said.
He says a local family owns the company, and many of his clients have known the family for years and consider them friends.
"No one I have spoken with in the community of West are after the family themselves," he said. "They really do like them and they are prominent members of the community. This is a very close-knit community."
He says some of his clients literally still have only the clothes they were wearing when they were forced to abandon their homes.
A second lawsuit has also been filed, on behalf of a West resident, but Grinke says his case is gaining momentum.
"Since that lawsuit was filed, we have been retained by 17 or 18 more folks," he said. "And I am still getting calls."