Lawyers have filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Rockton couple accusing Chemtool of negligence said they expect to file hundreds more lawsuits.
The lawsuit filed in Winnebago County court will be the first of many over the massive June 14 industrial fire that burned for days and forced residents within a mile of the plant to evacuate, reported the Rockford Register Star.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jolene Smith and Thomas Henry of Rockton by Peter Flowers of Meyers and Flowers in St. Charles and Kevin Frost, a Rockford alderman and lawyer, with Clark Frost Zucchi of Rockford.
Two other lawsuits were also filed, but those intend to seek class action status on behalf of residents.
Flowers told reporters that the circumstances and damages suffered by homeowners will differ, requiring individual lawsuits for residents living near the Rockton facility.
Their first lawsuit cites a lack of fire suppression and sprinkler systems in the plant where officials believe the fire started. It argues that Chemtool, and its parent company Lubrizol, were negligent for not taking steps to prevent the fire.
"The initial fire in the lubricant factory would have been contained had an operating fire suppression system been in place," the suit reads. "Due to the lack of an operating fire suppression system, the fire was not contained and spread quickly and engulfed the lubricant factory, triggering multiple explosions."
The fire burned for days and caused explosions that sent debris raining down on nearby neighborhoods. Smoke was visible from miles away. Cleanup continues in and around the plant.
A Lubrizol statement reported that the company had invested more than $70 million in the Rockton site, half of which was for safety enhancements.