Connecticut Fatal Fire Spoliation Suit Settled

A lawsuit against the city of Stamford stemming from a fire that killed five members of a family on Christmas morning in 2011, has been settled on the eve of trial.

The fire killed Lomer Johnson, 71, and Pauline Johnson, 69, as well as their three granddaughters, Lily Badger, 9, and twins Grace Badger and Sarah Badger, 7. The girls’ mother, Madonna Badger and Michael Borcina, barely escaped the blaze.

At issue in the case was the fire’s cause, and the role that ongoing renovations to the house played in the fire’s spread. The city blamed the fire on carelessly discarded fireplace ashes, something Badger and Borcina vehemently deny. The city ordered the house torn down the day after the fire without notice to any of the parties, preventing any further investigation into the matter. The demolition in turn led to allegations of spoliation against the city.

Matthew Badger, the father of the three girls, filed suit naming the city and numerous contractors who were involved in renovating the home. Matthew died earlier this year, and his estate took over the claim. It is reported that the contractors have collectively settled with the family for over $8 million, leaving the city to face the jury alone.

The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed, but includes a donation of $250,000 towards a scholarship fund in the name of three deceased girls.

More on the story.

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.
  • mr618

    The general contractor — whose license had allegedly lapsed or been suspended or somehow otherwise was invalid — was dating the mother while renovating her house. There were many allegations involved in the case, including the by-now-standard lack of detectors/alarms, improper electrical work, etc. The fire caused a tremendous upheaval in the neighborhood, but the greatest loss was five lives, including the three children.

    I believe the city’s unseemly haste to have the shell torn down had more to do with the property vales and neighbors’ sensitivities in the Shippan neighborhood than any investigative concerns.

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