Kin, Survivors Sue Over Rhode Island Nightclub Fire

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- More than 200 people affected by a devastating nightclub fire sued the state, club owners and a host of other defendants Thursday, alleging that their carelessness and negligence are to blame for 100 deaths and dozens of injuries.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 146 survivors and the family members of 80 people who died, the largest wave of plaintiffs yet to sue over the 2003 blaze at The Station nightclub in West Warwick. It seeks monetary damages but does not specify an amount.

The lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court follows a criminal indictment and at least six previous lawsuits that have been consolidated in federal court. The latest lawsuit also is expected to be moved to federal court.

The lawsuit alleges that 46 defendants, including state Fire Marshal Irving Owens, failed to ensure the nightclub was safe and also claims wrongful death, loss of consortium and product liability.

The Feb. 20, 2003, fire was sparked by pyrotechnics during a performance by the band Great White. Besides those killed, more than 200 were hurt.

Lawyer Mark Mandell, one of eight lawyers who filed the lawsuit, called it ``the product of over a year's work preserving and analyzing evidence.''

The lawsuit claims West Warwick fire inspector Denis Larocque did not note the presence of foam used as soundproofing during inspections that took place after club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian bought The Station in March 2000.

The foam is blamed for spreading the fire quickly through the wooden nightclub and releasing toxic substances that may have caused a number of deaths.

State law prohibits such highly flammable material from being used as soundproofing in clubs and bars.

The lawsuit also alleges that Great White band leader Jack Russell and the band's then-tour manager Dan Biechele were negligent for igniting the pyrotechnics.

The Derderian brothers and Biechele were indicted last December on 200 counts each of involuntary manslaughter. They have pleaded innocent. Their lawyers declined to comment on Thursday's lawsuit, citing the criminal proceedings.

The Attorney General's office and a lawyer for Russell declined to comment on the lawsuit, and a lawyer for Larocque didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

Several other defendants are named in the lawsuit, including two foam manufacturers, the company that sold the foam to the Derderians, the nightclub's insurance company and a television news cameraman accused of impeding the exit of concertgoers. Anheuser-Busch and Clear Channel Broadcasting also were named because the plaintiffs claim they promoted the concert, but the beer company denied doing so Thursday.