ORANGE, Texas — Court proceedings started on Monday in the first pre-trial hearing related to the TPC Group facility explosion in Port Neches.
Judge Courtney Arkeen presided over the first hearing about 10 months after the plant exploded in late November 2019.
Arkeen told 12News Monday allowed lawyers on both sides to meet and talk about logistics.
As of October 5, there are 530 individual lawsuits filed.
Judge Arkeen presides over the 128th district court in Orange County. You may be wondering why she is handling the hearings since the explosion happened in Jefferson County.
First, there are several lawsuits involved. For example, Brent Coon & Associates will represent more than 1,000 plaintiffs.
"The explosion impacted the bulk of the Mid-County region, the blast radius caused the evacuation of many thousands of people. A lot of properties were damaged," Coon said.
Lawyer Mark Sparks is also working with a number of those affected by the explosion.
"So, the Ferguson Firm, we have 1,047 clients, and we still get some new cases from time to time," Sparks said.
TPC's attorneys asked the Texas Supreme Court for a request to consolidate all the claims to one district judge to ensure the cases are all handled the same.
A multi-district litigation panel ruled over the summer to allow that to happen, and Arkeen was appointed.
Arkeen told 12News she'll handle the pre-trial matters, and then she'll send the lawsuits back to the original courts for trial.
"So what Judge Arkeen does is she works all of the cases up for trial, so what does that mean? She handles challenges to experts, motions for summary judgement issues regarding preservation of evidence," Sparks said.
Sparks and Coon say the process means they'll work together to gather evidence and find out what happened on that November night nearly a year ago.
The next TPC hearing is scheduled for November 2.