Triumph settles total about $12.25 million

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. _ A 2005 natural gas explosion that ripped through a pork-processing plant, killing one person and injuring several others, has led to settlements totaling $12.25 million, the law firms handling some of the cases said Monday.

Investigators determined that gas leaking from an uncapped valve fueled the explosion, which occurred Oct. 12, 2005, at the Triumph Foods plant.

The defendants named in the lawsuits were: plumbing contractor IHP Industrial of St. Joseph, Triumph Foods, construction management firm Epstein and Sons and Southern Union Co., the parent company of Missouri Gas Energy. The lawsuits claimed the companies were negligent in failing to follow procedural safeguards that could have prevented the explosion.

According to the settlements, which were finalized in Buchanan County Court on Jan. 10, the defendants admitted no liability.

"From our vantage point, certainly this is a very tragic event for those who were involved," said Patt Lilly, spokesman for Triumph Foods. "We're pleased that the settlements have been made and we can move on from that."

Melinda Fisher, mother of Andrew Bauer, 24, of Stewartsville, the masonry worker killed in the explosion, settled a wrongful death lawsuit in November 2007 for $2.25 million. In that settlement, IHP was responsible for paying $1.5 million. Triumph, Epstein and Sons and MGE were responsible for paying $250,000 each.

Injured worker Theo Jeurissen settled his claim for $3.5 million, of which IHP was to pay $1.92 million, Triumph $350,000, Epstein and Sons $787,500 and MGE $437,500.

Brad and Catherine Smith settled for $3 million, with IHP paying $1.65 million, Triumph $300,000, Epstein and Sons $675,000 and MGE $375,500.

Terry Younger settled for $2.5 million, with IHP paying $1.37 million, Triumph paying $250,000, Epstein and Sons paying $562,500 and MGE paying $312,500.

Another 16 plaintiffs settled for $1 million they would divide, according to the news release issued by The Henning Law Firm, Hutton & Hutton Law Firm, The Montee Law Firm and the law offices of Joseph A. Morrey.

Triumph, meanwhile, has lawsuits pending in Jackson County Circuit Court — mostly against insurance companies — trying to recoup damages from the explosion.