Children under 18 who lost a parent in a deadly 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire should receive an average gross award of $202,000 as their shares of a $176 million legal settlement, according to a report submitted in federal court.
The report reviews death and personal injury claims from the dozens of children affected by the Feb. 20, 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, which killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others.
The report was prepared by William Poore, a Providence lawyer appointed to conduct the review. The report’s recommendations will require the approval of a federal judge.
Forty one children under 18, including a 6-year-old who was in utero at the time of the fire, are recommended to receive settlement shares ranging from $171,685.44 to $241,631.36, before attorneys’ fees _ typically one-third of the plaintiff’s total award _ and other costs are deducted.
The average gross award for children in that category would be $202,000.
The age of the child at the time of the fire accounts for the wide range, Poore said.
“The younger you are, the more money you get because the longer you have to go without a parent” during your childhood, Poore said.
More than 300 survivors and victims’ relatives sued after the fire, which began when pyrotechnics used as a stage prop by the 1980s rock band Great White set ablaze cheap soundproofing foam on the walls and ceiling.
The lawsuits resolved in piecemeal fashion in 2007 and last year, with several dozen defendants including foam manufacturers, brewer Anheuser Busch, Clear Channel Broadcasting, the town of West Warwick and the state itself each agreeing to settle rather than head to trial.
Though the last defendant settled more than a year ago, it’s not clear when the money will be distributed.
Also according to the report, victims’ children who were minors at the time of the fire but are now adults would receive an average gross award of $155,700.
The settlement money will be allocated according to a point system that awards the largest shares to the people most seriously injured, with some badly burned survivors expected to receive multi-million dollar awards.
Children who lost one or more parents are given a base of 20 points, plus one point for each year they were under the age of 18 at the time of the fire.
Children whose parents were injured but survived are also entitled to money under a separate formula that awards points based on total medical costs.
The awards proposed for children of survivors are generally less than those suggested for someone whose parent was killed, and in the case of at least one offspring who is now an adult, the recommended amount is as low as $99.29.
Club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian pleaded no contest in 2006 to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter and former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele pleaded guilty to the same charges. Biechele served less than half his four-year prison sentence, and Michael Derderian was released in June after less than three years behind bars.
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