Demand
$5.3 million plus punitive damages

Offer
$300,000

Result
Defense verdict as to claims of building owner, tenants and borough. $330,000 combined award to 21 fire companies

Venue
Allegheny County

Judge
Baldwin

Attorney
Paul J. Walsh III

Date
March 2001

$5.3 million compensatory damages plus punitive damages claimed for catastrophic fire loss and chemical release.

This three-week trial involved 29 different Plaintiffs with claims for property damages totaling $5.3 million in addition to punitive damages. Our client, a tenant, was a chemical milling company. The theories of liability included negligence, violations of the Hazardous Material Emergency Planning and Response Act (pertaining to chemical release and damage to fire equipment), strict liability; and punitive damages.

The Plaintiffs attempted to prove that there was improper storage of chemicals and that the same led to the cause and spread of this fire in violation of various OSHA, BOCA, and NFPA regulations. Our defense focused on the cause of the fire and the cause of the spread ofthe fire. The fire started in the roof and was thus the building owner’s responsibility. Furthermore, the building owner had the responsibility for fire suppression which superceded various BOCA provisions requiring the tenant to install fire suppression
equipment.

The jury rendered defense verdicts in favor of our client against the Defendant building owner,the Plaintiff tenants and the Plaintiff borough. As to the Plaintiff fire companies, the jury assessed 70% liability against the Defendant building owner and 30% liability against our client. This translated to a combined award of $330,000 against our client. All claims for punitive damages were rejected by the jury.