More Legal Questions Re: Station Nightclub Fire Settlement

I just finished reading the book “Killer Show” (by John Barylick). Its a well written book, and explains the whole history of the 2003 tragic fire, that killed 100 people and maimed many other. However, the book doesn’t explain a few things:
-The owners of the nightclub (the Dederian brothers) were tried first on criminal charges (in RI state court). They received minimal sentences (one got 4 years later reduced, the other just probation). In the criminal trial, no mention was made of the role of the Town of West Warwick’s faulty fire inspection, nor of the raising of the permitted capacity of the club (from 200 to 409). Why was this never raised?
-at the civil trial (Federal court), the judge allowed just about every firm that had any equipment in the club, to be sued. Hence, a firm that had never supplied plastic foam to the club or anyone connected to it (Sealed Air Corp.) was named a defendant (they wound up paying $25 million). That foam had been taken from a dumpster and illegally applied before the Dederians leased the club).
-JBL (the firm that supplied the loudspeakers to the band “Great White”) wound up paying $813,000
My questions:
-how could a firm that had its products used without its knowledge be liable?
-JBL (speaker mfg.)on what basis did their product contribute to the accident?
Finally, the author never says just how much of the $176 million awarded went to the victims (but he does mention that the legal teams billings were $12,000/hour.) Does anyone know how much the victims actually received?

ralph, the foam manufacturer would be held liable if it sold a defective product. I haven’t read that book, but I keep seeing the foam referred to as acoustic foam. If the manufacturer knew that its foam was used in buildings to deaden noise, it would be held liable if its foam was unreasonably dangerous for that use.

I understand that JBL faced claims for using a flammable foam in its speakers. The analysis of its potential liability is the same: did the flammable foam make the speakers unreasonably dangerous for a foreseeable use.

I understand that the author of that book is a lawyer who represented victims of the fire. I’m surprised that his book left you with such fundamental questions.

The Wiki Page answers your question about JBL…they were accused of having flammable foam inside their speakers. Who knows if it is true…doubtful that it had anything to do with the fire…but I can see settling out of court would be a lot better for them in a public relations way instead of fighting this.

Every year there is a benefit concert in the area with the proceeds going to the victims.

God, I remember the night this happened like it was yesterday because I had friends that were supposed to be there (they didn’t end up making it) but the people they would have been meeting up with didn’t make it out.

The Providence Journal just did a whole series of stories on this for the tenth anniversary. This one will answer some of your questions - in handy pie chart form.

I’m surprised to see WHJY (the local radio station) listed as giving $22,000,000 to the settlements. Unless most of it went directly to the families of their employees that died. Especially if the band itself (or Jack Russell) only gave $1,000,000

I can understand why the TV station gave so much if their camera man obstructed the exits to get shots of the fire.

A wild guess on WHJY (our friends call us joy) having to pay that much is that A: they are a part of the much larger, deep pocketed Clear Channel empire and B: I believe they promoted the concert, so it can be argued they increased the crowd.

Ooh, fake edit to add from that website I linked, if you click on the defendants, it jumps to their section in the legal document on the right, so you can see exactly why.

thanks-I guess JBL’s lawyers decided that paying out was cheaper than going to court and disputing.
What the book made me realize is that :
-no fire inspection by towns is reliable, nor should any faith be placed in fire inspections (the Station was a run down dump, and its permitted capacity was arrived at by some rather dubious calculations).
-criminal trials (where defendants are well-connected) are usually decided by back room deals. The inexplicably light deal offered to the Dederians is beyond belief, in view of the death and destruction that their operation caused.
The lessons of the past are rarely learned-the Station tragedy was a carbon copy of the 1942 “Coconut Grove” fire. The recent nightclub fire in Brazil (245 dead) was a carbon copy of the Station disaster.
All in all a terrible situation.

Somebody has to pay the victims. Since the principle perpetrators of the crime were either protected by the state, had no significant amount of money, or could not be held liable under the law, the courts move on to the ‘deep pockets’ system and make anyone with money connected to the case with even the most tenuous of connections pay the bill.

For some more precise information, the town officials who approved this recipe for disasters were Rhode Islanders, and being a Rhode Island public official means never having to say your sorry unless federal prosecutors interfere.

Most of the money went to cover medical bills and lump sum settlements for the victims. A friend of mine nearly died from smoke inhalation, had no medical insurance, and netted nothing after all medical bills were payed. His girlfriend was more badly burned and her settlement covered necessary medical costs and reconstructive surgery, and she may have had some tiny amount of money left over to cover pain and suffering.

The manager of the band, who had actually supplied and ignited the fireworks that started the fire was the only person who had committed an easily identifiale crime was convicted and after a short prison term was given parole. There were few objections because he was the only person who admitted responsibility for his actions.

ralph, you should follow the link to the report in the Providence Journal. It links to a report written by a special master to the presiding judge. The report discusses each settlement and comments on whether the plaintiffs could have prevailed against each settling party. The special master’s job was to provide the judge with an opinion whether each settlement is reasonable. You will see that if the plaintiffs had almost no chance of prevailing against an individual defendant, the special master is in favor of settlement.

Consider this from a settling party’s point of view: their lawyers can’t guarantee winning at trial and losing means the party will be partly responsible for the deaths of 100 people and the injuries to many others.

From the wiki link, above:

[bold added]

The plaintiffs got all they possibly could from the Derderians. Their insurance company can, no doubt, legally refuse, under their insurance contract, to pay anything more than that. Any higher judgment would have had to be paid by them, directly, and thus been voided by their bankruptcy. There’s no point to the plaintiffs in bothering to take it to trial.

Well, that’s weird—I know somebody who was supposed to be there too. She was employed by Great White. She has a panic disorder and had an attack right before the show and missed it. I tell the story all the time, because it’s so ironic that her life was saved by something that’s so insidiously disabling.

I was speaking about the Dederian brother’s CRIMINAL trial, which was conducted in RI State court. Both were sentenced to (mainly) probation. Jail terms would have been more appropriate.

A timely update

(bolding mine)

I read the special master’s report, and to my mind it seems pretty fucked up. I mean, for a large number of defendants it basically seems to say something like “the defendants have multiple strong defences, and the plaintiffs have no chance of succeeding at trial, so a settlement of $5 million is reasonable”. That just seems fundamentally unjust. To me, the only “reasonable” settlement under those circumstances would be $0.

I can’t disagree with you, and I believe yours is the correct impression. The special master’s job was to tell the judge whether the settlements were good for minor plaintiffs. He is going to recommend settlement when minor plaintiffs are getting something for nothing.

Not to be ghoulish, but I had only ever seen a few seconds of the very start of this tragedy, but in fact the guy who recorded it taped for over ten continuous minutes. I’m not going to put a link, or even the unlinked url, just put ‘The Station Night Club Fire (GRAPHIC)’ into YouTube to find it.**

WARNING: If you were personally connected in any way I would not watch it, it is disturbing.**

I realize that legal settlements have to take any & everything into account, but it’s just so frustrating watching this and it being so obvious that the one(s) responsible were the idiots who allowed those pyrotechnics to be set off indoors.