R.I. Judge Orders Nightclub Owners Pay Workers’ Comp Benefits to Families of Employees Killed in Fire

March 4, 2005

Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Court Judge Bruce Q. Morin has ordered the owners of the West Warwick nightclub The Station to pay lost wages and funeral expenses to the families of four employees who were among the 100 who died in the fire at the club in February 2003.

Morin held the owners, Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, and their company, Derco LLC, “jointly and individually” liable for the deceased employee’s workers’ comp benefits even though the firm had not purchased the required coverage.

After the hearings, lawyers for the Derderians indicated that they would seek a stay of the order while they appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Jeffrey Derderian’s lawyer, Jeffrey B. Pine, also told the judge that it was unlikely the brothers have the money to pay the claims, which he tallied at more than $200,000 in total.

Last summer, Derderians were held personally liable for a $1.06-million fine against Derco for failing to carry workers’ comp. That was the largest fine ever levied by the workers’ comp court. The Derderians are appealing that ruling.

State law entitles the survivors of an employee killed on the job to $15,000 for funeral costs plus a percentage of lost wages. Dependent children are entitled to benefits until age 18.

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