Rhode Island Club Owners, Band Fined $100K

By | August 21, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Six months after a deadly nightclub fire, the club’s owners and a rock band were fined nearly $100,000 by the federal agency that regulates workplace safety.

Legal experts say the move could bolster lawsuits filed after the Feb. 20 blaze, which killed 100 people and injured nearly 200 others at a Great White concert.

“It’s not absolute proof of negligence, but it will be used as evidence to illustrate negligence,” said David Yas, editor of Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly.

He said that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s decision Wednesday “certainly carries some power.”

The agency fined Derco LLC, which operated The Station club, $85,200 for one “willful” violation and six serious ones.

OSHA said the willful violation was the installation of an exit door that swung the wrong way. The others involved the use of highly flammable foam in the club, inadequate safety planning and an exit door that was concealed by foam, the agency said.

Jeff Pine, who represents club owner Jeffrey Derderian, said he is encouraged that only one willful violation was found. Pine said he will meet with OSHA representatives to discuss the agency’s conclusions.

“We want to sit down with them and discuss the nature of the violations… and if any of them have merit, we’d like to work out a reasonable resolution of the situation,” Pine said.

An attorney for club co-owner Michael Derderian did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Jack Russell Touring Inc., the corporate entity representing rock bank Great White, faces a $7,000 fine for failing to protect employees from fire hazards, OSHA said.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate,” band attorney Ed McPherson said of the fine. He also said the band couldn’t have known about the safety conditions of the club.

McPherson said the band will likely appeal. The club and band have 15 days to do so.

At least six lawsuits have been filed against defendants including the band and the Derderians, and a grand jury is weighing whether criminal charges are warranted.

Meanwhile, Great White had planned to play a benefit show in Massachusetts, but the club’s new owner decided against hosting the Sept. 26 concert.

Rick Pasquarosa, new owner of Club Liquid in Leominster, Mass., said he was concerned about protests at the club, which is about 75 miles north of The Station.

Great White has been touring since July, raising funds for victims and survivors of the fire.

The first nine concerts raised about $25,000, said Victoria Potvin, president of The Station Family Fund.

Mark Mandell, an attorney putting together lawsuits on behalf of victims’ families and survivors, said the OSHA findings won’t have much of an impact, because the attorneys will be required to provide a different standard of proof in court.

“They will be helpful to us, but they are things we’ve been working on all along,” he said.

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