Federal suit filed in R.I. nightclub fire

Owners, band, state are among defendants

April 23, 2003|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Invoking a statute enacted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the first federal lawsuit has been filed seeking damages from February's nightclub fire here that killed 99 people.

The civil suit on behalf of three victims of Rhode Island's worst fire disaster identifies at least two dozen defendants - including the state and the Rhode Island fire marshal. Attorney Ronald J. Resmini contends in the suit that the state failed to properly train local fire officials.

Also named as defendants are the chief fire inspector of West Warwick, where the Station nightclub was situated, club owners Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, and the four surviving members of the band Great White, whose concert attracted an estimated 400 fans.

The lawsuit also targets Anheuser Busch, which promoted a special beer on the night of the Great White concert, and a Providence radio station that advertised the event.

An additional defendant is the American Foam Corp., distributor of the insulation used as soundproofing in the Station. Sparks from a pyrotechnic display used by Great White ignited the soundproofing material, causing the fire that swept through the club in less than five minutes.

Lawyers for several of those named in the lawsuit said they would not comment on pending litigation.

Nearly 200 people were injured as club-goers frantically searched for exits in the smoke-darkened establishment. Eight victims remain hospitalized, and many others have been transferred to rehabilitation facilities.

Resmini said he was bringing the suit under the Multiparty, Multiforum Trial Jurisdiction Act of 2002, which gives U.S. district courts jurisdiction in civil cases resulting in more than 75 deaths.

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