State, Fire Marshal No Longer Defendants in R.I. Nightclub Fire Trial

November 25, 2005

A federal judge in Providence has dismissed the state of Rhode Island and the state fire marshal from a lawsuit stemming from a deadly 2003 nightclub fire.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux ruled that Fire Marshal Irving J. Owens and the state are protected from liability and agreed to drop them from a complaint that also names dozens of other defendants.

The Feb. 20, 2003, fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick was sparked by onstage pyrotechnics during a performance of the rock band Great White. It killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others.

A federal complaint filed by fire survivors and relatives of the victims accused Owens of negligence, saying he failed to properly inspect the nightclub and discover the flammable foam there.

But Lagueux said Owens did not act with any “bad faith or malice” in doing his job and is shielded from liability for damages stemming from the fire.

A federal judge in Providence dismissed an insurance company and two other defendants from a civil lawsuit brought by survivors of a deadly 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire and by relatives of those who died.

Judge Lagueux had previoulsy agreed to drop Essex Insurance Company, Multi-State Inspections Inc. and High Caliber Inspections Inc. from the case.

Essex is an insurer that provided liability coverage for The Station nightclub in West Warwick. Multi-State and High-Caliber are identified in the complaint as insurance inspection services.

The suit claimed that inspections of the nightclub were done negligently and failed to detect potential safety hazards, fire and building code violations and flammable material.

But Lagueux said Essex and the two inspection services had no obligation to the plaintiffs to inspect the club.

While dismissing those defendants, the judge also refused to dismiss as defendants Denis Larocque, the local fire inspector responsible for inspecting The Station, the town itself and a West Warwick police officer who was assigned to security at the club.

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