Rhode Island Judge OKs Plan for Sharing Club Fire Settlement

March 10, 2009

Survivors of a deadly nightclub fire and relatives of the 100 people killed are moving closer to sharing a $176 million court settlement.

A federal magistrate judge on Friday approved a proposal for distributing the money among the more than 300 people who sued over the fire, which began when pyrotechnics used as a stage prop by the 1980s rock band Great White ignited soundproofing foam.

The distribution formula was proposed by Duke University law professor Francis McGovern, who was hired by the victims’ lawyers to work out a points system for survivors and relatives of victims of the 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, near Providence.

The formula awards the largest shares to survivors who were most severely injured, but the precise sum each plaintiff will receive hasn’t been determined. Lawyers have said payments will range from about $20,000 to several million dollars.

Judge David L. Martin said there have been no objections to McGovern’s distribution plan and he saw no reason not to approve it.

The $176 million comes from several dozen defendants, including Anheuser-Busch, Clear Channel Broadcasting and The Home Depot, each of which chose to settle rather than go to trial.

After the Feb. 20, 2003, fire, which injured more than 200 people, club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter charges, and former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele pleaded guilty to the same charges.

Biechele was released from prison last year after serving less than two years in prison. Michael Derderian is due out on parole later this year; his brother was spared jail time.

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