US foam makers settle in deadly Rhode Island fire
BOSTON May 12 (Reuters) - Several makers of foam used as soundproofing have agreed in principle to pay $30 million to victims of a Rhode Island nightclub fire that killed more than 100 people, the latest in a string of settlements that total more than $100 million.
Court papers filed on Monday showed Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt Inc. (LEG.N) and three other defendants reached agreement with plaintiffs representing those killed and injured in one of the deadliest blazes in U.S. history.
"We're still some time off in actual resolution of this case but certainly this is another step," Steven Minicucci, an attorney who represents more than a dozen of the approximately 300 plaintiffs, told Reuters.
The fire, sparked by fireworks that accompanied a show by the rock band Great White on Feb. 20, 2003, at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, also injured more than 200 people.
The sparks spread to flammable, polyurethane foam on the club's walls that had been used for soundproofing. Nearly a third of the crowd at the heavy metal rock show were unable to exit the building.
The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, must be approved by the judge. Other defendants are privately held U.S. foam makers Wm. T. Burnett & Co, General Foam Corp and FFNC Corp.
The club's owners, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, have said they did not know the foam was flammable. Investigators said the foam fueled the fire.
The Derderians pleaded no contest to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Michael Derderian is serving a four-year sentence. His brother served no jail time. Former Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele served 22 months in prison after pleading guilty to the same charges.
More than two dozen defendants remain -- including the state of Rhode Island and the beer manufacturer Anheuser Busch Inc. (BUD.N), Minicucci said.
Clear Channel Broadcasting Inc., the largest U.S. radio station owner, settled for $22 million in February. The Clear Channel Communications Inc. (CCU.N) subsidiary was named in lawsuits because it owns WHJY-FM, a local radio station that promoted the concert.
(Reporting by Jason Szep; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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