Nightclub fires have long been responsible for causing significant death and injury. In 1942, the Cocoanut Club fire in Boston resulted in 492 deaths and hundreds of injuries. More than sixty years later, on February 20, 2003, a fire at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island resulted in 100 deaths and more than 230 injuries.
Terrible nightclub fires do not happen only in the US. Single nightclub fires have also killed or injured hundreds in China, Thailand, France, and the Philippines.
Factors Leading to Nightclub Fires
When nightclub fires result in death and horrific injuries, usually the nightclub is to blame, often for multiple reasons, such as by:
- Allowing dangerous activities to take place (such as indoor pyrotechnics that were used by the band Great White which started The Station fire),
- Locking fire doors (often to prevent people from sneaking into or out of a nightclub)
- Allowing too many people into a club in violation of the fire code,
- Not evacuating a club immediately when a fire occurs (instead, club employees may tell patrons that nothing is wrong so that people do not go to another club),
- Having dangerously combustible materials, such as certain types of furniture, drapes, ceiling tiles, and other decorative items,
- Not having working smoke alarms or sprinkler systems,
- Not having fire extinguishers and other equipment that could be used to save valuable seconds and allow patrons to escape,
- Not having clearly marked exits, and
- Having exits that cannot be easily accessed.
Many of these factors existed in The Station fire. Dangerous pyrotechnics were ignited, which quickly ignited flammable sound insulation foam in the walls and ceiling. Many patrons continued to stay in the club, showing little concern about the fire that was spreading, likely thinking it was part of the show or that it would be put out quickly.
In five and a half minutes, a huge flash fire engulfed the club, resulting in a rush toward the front door (the only door that most people knew about), although there were other doors that could have been used. The rush toward the front door resulted in a narrow hallway becoming blocked, which then trapped many people who died.
Tragically, Some Nightclub Owners Put Their Own Interests Before the Safety of their Patrons
Not promptly informing patrons that a fire has started and helping them get to safety immediately is one example of a disastrous decision that can be made. Other decisions that can be equally disastrous may be in the choice of materials used in club construction and decoration. While there may be no intentionality to cause danger to club patrons, nonetheless such choices can in result in a flammable tinderbox.
Who May Be Liable for Nightclub Fires?
Those responsible for nightclub fires can include:
- The owners of the nightclub,
- The property owners, if the nightclub is being leased,
- Those responsible for intentionally igniting the fire, such as the entertainment crew in The Station fire, or other patrons or those causing arson,
- If the fire is started by the entertainers, the entertainers themselves, any legal entity under which they may have been doing business, and those responsible for promoting the event,
- The manufacturers of defective products that may have started a fire,
- The manufacturers of safety devices, such as smoke alarms and sprinkler systems, and/or the contractors that installed such safety devices, if the safety devices did not function properly,
- In the case of electrical fires, those responsible for any faulty wiring or defective work,
- In the case of natural gas fires, those responsible for gas lines, which could include gas companies, municipalities, and those responsible for ensuring the safety of gas lines,
- Those who have made decisions that prevented lives from being saved, such as those who may have locked doors that could have been used for escape.
As each nightclub fire will be unique, so too will the causes and those responsible.
Nightclub Fires Can Result from Many Poor Choices. We Want to Identify All Those Responsible for such Poor Choices so that they can be Held Accountable.
As burn injury lawyers, we will want to fully investigate a nightclub fire on behalf of our injured clients to determine exactly how the fire started, and who may have been responsible for the start of the fire as well as who may have contributed to the injuries and death being worse than what they should have been.
Once we have identified all those who we believe are responsible for causing or exacerbating injuries and death, we demand full compensation from them for their share of our client’s injuries and damages. If they refuse to pay what they owe, we will take them to trial and let a jury determine fault and damages.
We Offer a Free, No-Obligation Consultation
If you have been injured, or if a loved one has perished, in a nightclub fire please call us. We can explain your rights to recover against all those who may have had a role in causing the fire or the injuries and damages sustained.
We accept fire cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you will not owe us any fees unless and until we recover for you.