Packaging Company Settles for $25M in Rhode Island Nightclub Fire

June 16, 2008

A New Jersey packaging company sued after a Rhode Island nightclub burned down five years ago has agreed to pay $25 million to survivors and relatives of the 100 people killed, according to court papers filed Friday.

The settlement with Sealed Air Corp. is the latest in a series stemming from the February 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, which began when pyrotechnics used by the rock band Great White ignited flammable soundproofing on the club’s walls.

The settlement brings to nearly $150 million the total amount of money offered to survivors and victims’ relatives. It also moves the case, which initially named dozens of people and companies as defendants, closer to a resolution.

The victims’ lawyers say Sealed Air made polyethylene foam that was installed in the club in 1996. They say the foam burned too easily and produced toxic gas.

Ken Aurichio, a spokesman for Sealed Air, said packaging material was allegedly misused as soundproofing, and noted that it was never determined the company even made the material in the club. Sealed Air did not admit wrongdoing, and its insurer will pay the settlement, he said.

“Though Sealed Air was not responsible for the fire, we believe that this result is in the best interest of all concerned,” Aurichio said.

The foam at issue in Friday’s settlements is different from the flammable polyurethane foam placed on the building’s walls by club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, who took over the club in 2000.

Other defendants that have reached settlements include Clear Channel Broadcasting, whose rock radio station promoted the show; Anheuser-Busch Inc.; The Home Depot Inc.; and a pyrotechnics manufacturer. Several other foam companies agreed last month to pay $30 million to settle.

The settlements are all subject to approval by a judge and the families.

The defendants that remain include the state of Rhode Island; the local fire inspector who failed to cite the club for foam; and American Foam Corp., which sold polyurethane foam to the Derderians.

In 2006, the Derderians pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele, who ignited the pyrotechnics, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Biechele is out on parole. Michael Derderian is in prison, but will be paroled next year. His brother received a sentence of probation and community service.

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