At a total cost of $12.25 million, all personal injury lawsuits related to the explosion at Triumph Foods have been settled.

The settlement is believed to be the largest in Buchanan County, said attorney James Montee, who represented most of the plaintiffs. The lawsuits involved 20 workers injured or killed during the accident, which occurred Oct. 12, 2005, during the construction of the pork plant.

The four companies involved - IHP Industrial, Epstein and Sons, Missouri Gas Energy and Triumph - have paid the plaintiffs, Mr. Montee said. The settlement involved four separate lawsuits that were combined for an extensive discovery process. More than 60 depositions were taken. The claims were submitted for mediation last fall. Without admitting liability, all four defendants agreed to settle with the plaintiffs.

IHP paid 57 percent of the damages for a total of $7 million. The St. Joseph company was a plumbing contractor working on the building.

"IHP left the valve off the pipe," said Denise Henning, a lawyer for a plaintiff. "There is no doubt about that and it was a bad mistake."

The explosion was caused when a valve was left uncapped and unscented gas flowed into the building. When a worker lit a torch, the escaped gas exploded, blowing down walls and bursting through the roof.

Ms. Henning represented Melinda Fisher, the mother of Andrew Bauer. Mr. Bauer was a 24-year-old employee of D&D Masonry who was killed at the scene. Ms. Fisher settled for $2.25 million on Nov. 16, 2007.

The damages were lower than might have been expected because of IHP's insurance, Mr. Montee said. Triumph required the each subcontractor to carry $7 million in insurance. Because of tort reforms passed two months before the accident, other companies were not required to pay more damages.

Triumph will pay 10 percent of the settlement costs for $1.25 million.

"We're pleased to see this behind us. Obviously it was a tragic event," said Patt Lilly, chief administrative officer of Triumph Foods.

Epstein, the general contractor for the construction of the plant, paid 20 percent of the settlement for $2.5 million. Missouri Gas Energy paid 12 percent for $1.5 million.

Ms. Henning said in addition to IHP's responsibility, the contractor and Triumph were pushing to get the building finished quickly. "You put all these things together and it results in an accident like this," Ms. Henning said.

Theo Jeurissen, a worker from the Netherlands, suffered a crushed pelvis from the explosion. He received the largest settlement at $3.5 million. Mr. Montee said he has returned to work as a computer programmer.

In the other settlements, Brad and Catherine Smith received $3 million. Mr. Smith suffered a leg fracture. Terry Younger sustained a traumatic brain injury and received $2.5 million.

Sixteen plaintiffs will divide $1 million. They are Raymond Finley, $280,000; Mel Robinett, $200,000; Cody Holmes, $180,000; Darren Handke, $60,000; Jamie Gilpin, $60,000; Matthew Herken, $40,000; Allen Nauman, $40,000; John Gilpin, $30,000; David Becker, $30,000; Mike Stone, $30,000; Martin Verdonk, $15,000; Joop Boltjes, $15,000; Bradley Parkhurst, $8,000; Mike Maxwell, $6,000; Tim Griese, $3,000; and Richard Buttron, $3,000.

Other lawsuits arising from the accident, including Triumph's suits against Epstein, MGE and insurance carriers, are still ongoing, Mr. Lilly said.

Susan Mires can be reached at

Content © 2010. NPG Newspapers Inc, St. Joseph News-Press & News-Press 3 NOW. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.