A judge has set a preliminary trial date for lawsuits filed by families of eight of the nine Charleston, South Carolina firefighters killed in a June 2007 furniture store fire.
Circuit Judge Markley Dennis on July 31 set a preliminary trial date of Dec. 1, 2009 for the lawsuits against the Sofa Super Store and various contractors and furniture companies, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported on Aug. 2.
But it’s not known if the similar lawsuits will be tried together, and a lead attorney for the families says that date could be delayed as more than a dozen additional defendants are expected to be added to the cases as a result of recent investigations into the fire.
“We are going full-blast ahead to find out what happened and why they died,” attorney Kevin Dean said. “I think the case is headed to trial with a number of defendants.”
A recent round of mediation led to financial settlements with two furniture manufacturers named in the lawsuits, Dean said.
Charleston attorney Thomas Wills, who presided over mediation in July, filed an update with the court this week, saying several of the furniture defendants continue to discuss possible settlements with firefighters’ families.
Sofa Super Store attorney Richard Rosen declined to comment on any other settlement possibilities.
The deaths were the largest loss of firefighters since the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.
The cause of the fire is still unknown. Reports from federal officials an a panel of experts hired by the city both concluded that likely causes included discarded cigarettes or someone lighting materials at the loading dock of the store.
Fire Chief Rusty Thomas announced his retirement in May. Mayor Joe Riley has said he hopes to choose a new fire chief by the end of September.
Information from: The Post and Courier,
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