Speaker Maker, Bus Companies Reach R.I. Club Fire Settlements

April 1, 2008

A speaker maker and two bus companies have agreed to pay a combined $1.3 million in tentative settlements stemming from a 2003 fire at a Rhode Island nightclub that killed 100 people, according to court papers filed last week.

The companies agreed to pay survivors and families of victims of the fire that started when a pyrotechnics display for the band Great White ignited flammable foam that lined the walls of The Station in West Warwick. More than 200 people were injured.

None of the companies admit wrongdoing.

Hundreds of survivors and family members of those killed have sued dozens of companies. A handful, including Clear Channel Broadcasting, Home Depot and a local television station, have agreed to tentative settlements now worth more than $70 million.

All the settlements are subject to approval by the plaintiffs and the federal judge overseeing the case.

The three companies agreeing to settlements include JBL, Inc., which made the speakers used by Great White the night of the fire. The company said it would pay $815,000 to get out of the case.

The lawsuit accused JBL of making speakers that had flammable foam inside, although JBL has said in court papers that nothing in its speakers would have sped the fire any more than any other building material.

ABC Bus Leasing, Inc., and Superstar Services, which leased the buses that brought the band members and the fireworks to the club, said they would pay a combined $500,000.

The lawsuits said that the companies should be held accountable because they transported fireworks without a permit, breaking state and federal laws. But ABC has said in court papers that it simply leased the buses to Superstar and both companies have said there’s no evidence their employees knew fireworks were being moved on the bus.

It’s not yet clear how money from the settlements will be divided. A law professor from Duke University has met with survivors and family members and is developing a formula that will determine how much money each person gets.

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