N.Y. Firefighters’ Estates to Sue for $180M over Fatal Tower Fire

November 15, 2007

The families of two New York firefighters killed in a blaze in a government-owned skyscraper plan to sue the state and the city for $180 million charging the incompetence of multiple agencies caused their deaths.

The estates of Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia announced plans Tuesday to sue several state and city agencies, including the state-controlled Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which owns the former Deutsche Bank tower just across from ground zero.

The Graffagnino claim also named officials including Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and fire department Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.

A notice of claim must be filed within 90 days of an incident if a lawsuit is planned against the government. The firefighters died on Aug. 18 of cardiac arrest after climbing 14 floors into the burning building, which was being dismantled. A broken standpipe, which hadn’t been inspected in more than a year, hampered efforts to fight the fire.

Both sets of papers said the state and city improperly awarded contracts to incompetent firms to clean the building of debris and take it down, understaffed and underfunded the demolition project and negligently failed to have a plan to fight the fire or properly inspect the building.

The claim for Graffagnino, 33, seeks $150 million in damages; the claim for Beddia, 53, seeks $30 million.

State spokesman Errol Cockfield declined to comment. City spokeswoman Kate Ahlers said: “This case involves a terrible tragedy. We are awaiting the formal legal papers, and will review them thoroughly.”

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