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Widener Univ. School of Law

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Great White Litigation

In February of 2003, 100 people were killed and scores more injured in a fire at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island, at a concert featuring hair metal band Great White.

Last week, the band's manager was sentenced to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter:

Biechele was the tour manager for Great White when on Feb. 20, 2003, he lit a pyrotechnics display that ignited highly flammable foam that lined the walls and ceiling of the Station nightclub in West Warwick. The foam was used as soundproofing and was placed there by the owners after neighbors complained about noise from the club.

Not surprisingly, extensive civil litigation has ensued as well.  Some interesting items:

  • An early op-ed piece criticizing the potential for suit against Clear Channel and its local radio station (who promoted the show and lost a DJ in the blaze) and Anheuser-Busch (a sponsor who held a promotion at the show);
  • An early story with some surprisingly decent analysis (for MTV anyway) on the decisions whether to include the band in lawsuits;
  • A story on an early federal suit;
  • A 2004 piece noting the filing of a broad suit by 200 plaintiffs, with defendants including the band, Lloyd's of London, Anheuser-Bush and its local distributor, Clear Channel and its local station, the foam manufacturer, state and local building inspectors, the bus company whose bus carried the band to Rhode Island, and others;
  • Coverage of the judge's refusal to dismiss the case against the city (but dismissing the state);
  • Coverage of the judge's refusal to dismiss the case against the radio station.

To get a sense of the breadth of the defendants targeted, I've uploaded the Docket [PDF] from the federal suit as of today and the First Amended Complaint [97-page PDF, big] from the same suit.

This is not an attempt to be exhaustive.  The recent sentencing got a lot of local media play and it made me curious about where the civil litigation stands.  The sheer breadth of the defendants is genuinely astonishing.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/tortsprof/2006/05/great_white_lit.html

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