I’m Suing, You’re Suing, We’re All Suing In Utica

A new lawsuit has been filed in the aftermath of a fire in Utica, New York in 2009 that claimed the lives of four people. By my count, this is at least the sixth suit to come out of the blaze… and I freely admit I may have missed a few.

The fire at 102 James Street on September 20, 2009 killed Bruce Bush, 41; Douglas Crane, 24; Glenard Drake, 44; and Terry Singh, 28.

The first suit was filed by the landlord, Timothy Klotz, who alleged the fire department was negligent in fighting the fire, defamed him, and caused him to have a stroke and PTSD. Klotz is seeking $4.5 million in damages. In the second suit, Klotz  sued his insurance company.

The third suit was filed by the city of Utica against Klotz for the cost of demolishing his building after the fire, an estimated $130,000.

The fourth suit was filed by the families of three of the deceased victims against the city and Klotz in state court. The fifth suit was brought last September by the families of all four deceased victims who filed a federal civil rights suit against the city and Fire Chief Russell Brooks alleging a denial of due process (deliberate indifference).

The sixth and most recent suit was brought in state court by the last remaining victim’s family.  Here is more on the story.


I knew I should have taken the New York bar exam…. I wonder if Brad Pinsky has a spare office….


Footnote: Unfortunately I could not ascertain which of the families filed the latest suit… Apparently it was not “newsworthy” enough to be included in the news reports… Isn’t it amazing the details some reporters choose to leave out… For the record I spent 2 hours trying to track down that “minor detail” – if even the names of the three families who filed suit previously was listed somewhere – to no avail.

I did find two complaints for the complaint junkies out there:

Bush, et al v. City of Utica, et al Bush v City of Utica

Klotz v. City of Utica, et al Klotz v City of Utiica

Second footnote: the six cases listed above are not numbered in the order in which they were actually filed – they are listed in the order that I added them to my database. Sorry for any confusion. I have no way to determine the order they were filed in.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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