R.I. Court Clears Way for Benefits to Nightclub Fire Victims’ Families

June 7, 2005

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has lifted a stay on the payment of about $180,000 in death benefits to the families of four employees killed in The Station nightclub fire.

The owners of the club, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, had been ordered by state Workers Compensation Court Judge Bruce Morin to pay the benefits because they did not carry the required workers’ compensation insurance at the West Warwick club.

Their lawyers asked the Supreme Court for the stay, and also to review a separate Workers Compensation Court order that the Derderians were personally responsible for the employees’ injuries and deaths. The high court declined to review that order.

The Supreme Court action means the issue of whether the Derderians were personally responsible will go back to Workers Compensation Court for trial, said Dyana Koelsch, spokeswoman for the state courts system.

It was unclear when the families of the deceased would start receiving benefits.

Morin’s order called for the benefits to be paid immediately, but Koelsch said there’s no payment schedule included with it.

A fire, sparked by a band’s pyrotechnics, swept through the club on Feb. 20, 2003, killing 100 people and injuring more than 200 others. If the Derderians had the insurance for their employees, the families would have received a death benefit. The Derderians are each charged with 200 counts of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of 100 people in the blaze.

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