Store lawyers claim city at fault
Sofa Super Store attorneys battling claims in the aftermath of the deadly fire blame the City of Charleston for "all or a major portion of the damages" in the case.
Families of the nine firefighters who died are suing Sofa Super Store, but not the city. But in a twist, lawyers for the store recently asked a judge to make the city party of the litigation anyway.
The motion said the city was "grossly negligent, reckless and/or willful and wanton" about the safety of its firefighters. It seeks "equitable allocation of fault to the city as will be supported by the evidence presented at trial."
The city responded Friday with a brief filed in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas. The brief said that the city shouldn't be part of the lawsuit because it settled claims through the workers' compensation process. The furniture store also failed to file the motion before the statute of limitations ran out, the city said. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday.
After the fire on June 18, 2007, firefighters' families each received between
$775,470 and $637,355 from workers' compensation and a public fund, said Barbara Vaughn, the city's director of media relations.
In December, the families of eight firefighters reached a partial settlement with 14 companies for $5.6 million. The suits alleged that the furniture manufacturers failed to warn people selling and using the furniture that the products contain polyurethane foam, a flammable material that can increase the potential danger in the event of a fire.
The Sofa Super Store wasn't part of that settlement.
After the fire, the city hired a panel of consultants to study what went wrong. The panel found the actions of the Charleston Fire Department and the store contributed to the deaths. The report described the store as a death trap, citing its dense layout of furniture, padlocked doors and poorly maintained or marked exits.
The report also found that the fire likely began when someone tossed a cigarette by the store's loading dock and that material piled around the dock provided a tremendous amount of fuel.