The first of many trials involving the Alon USA Refinery explosion is now over. The trial began on Monday in the 118th District Court, and the verdict was handed down just after 2pm on Friday.
The explosion happened back in February of 2008, and many people were affected. This week, it was Ronnie and Debra Walker that sued for property damage along with Beverly Smithie. Even though the trial is over...many more are still to come.
Everyone waited outside the 118th Distict Courthouse while the jury deliberated for nearly three hours. But finally, the courtroom doors were reopened and the verdict was handed down.
"The jury came back today and gave the plaintiff's pretty much exactly what our side of the case said the bills were worth, and paid them for their damage that they're rightly entitled to," Chad Pinkerton, Plaintiff's lawyer, said Friday.
"It ended in a good verdict. I'm still so stunned...we won," Beverly Smithie, plaitiff, said.
She received over $230,000 to repair the damages caused by the blast, but it wasn't all about the money. The plaintiff's were hoping for gross negligence, but they didn't get it.
"The only thing the jury didn't do was take the next step and punish this company. I believe this company deserves to be punished. If they don't get punished, they're going to continue this conduct. What they've done is avoid paying their bills for about 2 1/2 years," Pinkerton said.
According to him, that's what lead to the explosion that damaged hundreds of homes.
"I hope it makes them get the refinery where they have to do safety things and check it more often for the whole town and community. I sure don't want that to happen again. It could have been a lot worse. It could have been people getting killed," Smithie said.
"It's been a long hard fight. My hope is that Alon will now recognize that there is real damage and they'll take these cases seriously and do something for this community. Alon is a part of this community, but they need to also take care of the people in the community who they've harmed," Pinkerton said.
Debra Walker did not want to talk on camera, but said she's scared to live in her home for fear that another explosion will happen again. Pinkerton said there's 140 more cases that have been filed through his law firm, and 200 more on top of that that have been filed in Dallas. He said he's ready to try every one of them until Alon does what's right, and pays the people what they deserve. Alon had no comment on Fridays verdict.