BGE settles with firm on Clipper Park blaze Insurance company says utility was liable

September 26, 1997|By Ivan Penn and Michael James | Ivan Penn and Michael James,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reached a settlement this week with Clipper Industrial Park for damage caused in a 1995 blaze that killed a firefighter and destroyed an artists' community.

The settlement came on the heels of a memorandum by U.S. District Senior Judge Joseph H. Young to Lexington Insurance Co., a Massachusetts-based firm that filed suit on behalf of the industrial park. In the memorandum, Young warned the insurance company that its award could be limited.

"The court holds that if Lexington prevails in this case it may

recover a maximum damage award of $1,425,000 for the destroyed buildings and $198,188 for loss of rental income," Young said in the memorandum, which was issued Monday.

The amount of the settlement is being kept secret, although Lexington settled the same day Young's memorandum was issued. The firm's suit sought $4.4 million.

The insurance company filed suit against BGE, alleging that an electrical failure sparked the Sept. 16, 1996, fire that leveled a blocklong iron foundry, used for artists' studios. In the suit, the insurance company blamed BGE for the electrical failure.

Firefighter Eric D. Schaefer, 25, died while fighting the blaze when a two-story granite wall collapsed, trapping him and others under tons of rock. Seventeen firefighters were injured.

William D. Poloway, owner of the industrial park, declined to comment yesterday about the settlement. Elliott Feldman, an attorney for the insurance company, did not return calls.

BGE would not disclose the terms or amount of the settlement but said that the agreement was made "with no admission of liability" by the utility.

"We maintain the position that we have had all along," said Arthur Slusark, a BGE spokesman. "The fire did not start where they said it started. Our equipment was impacted by the fire but did not case the fire."

The settlement does not affect lawsuits filed against BGE by artists from the industrial park, Slusark said.

Pub Date: 9/26/97

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