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Phillips Agrees to Settle 1989 Explosion Claims

March 2, 1994

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (AP) _ Phillips Petroleum Co. agreed Wednesday to settle 191 lawsuits by victims of a 1989 explosion that killed 23 people and hurt 130 at the Houston Chemical Complex.

As part of the settlements, neither the company nor plaintiffs can say how much money was paid by Phillips.

Phillips still faces lawsuits by about 100 people who said they were hurt in the explosion. Lawsuits by the families of victims who died or were badly burned were settled earlier.

″We settled the death cases ages ago, and all the burn cases,″ Company attorney Clyde Lea said. Most of those settled Wednesday and all of those that remain involve either orthopedic injuries or psychological claims, he said.

Phillips made no admission of negligence in the settlements, Lea said.

In November, a Houston jury awarded 15 other victims between $2,500 to $110,000 in damages. They had sought $200 million.

Federal investigators found the Oct. 23, 1989, explosion occurred when gases escaped from an open valve, forming a huge vapor cloud that ignited.

Phillips, which said the blast was the result of human error, agreed in 1991 to pay a $4 million fine levied by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA had sought a $5.7 million fine.

Lea said 15 of the 191 lawsuits were in the second week of arguments in state court in Houston. The judge had ordered Phillips and the plaintiffs, all of whom were represented by two attorneys, to try to settle to avoid a backlog of cases.

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