Bridgeport Sues Contractor For Indemnification Over Fatal Fire

The City of Bridgeport, Connecticut and its Mayor, fire chief, fire marshal, zoning official, and building official have filed suit against a construction company seeking indemnification for any damages they may have to pay in a previously filed lawsuit over a four fatality fire.

The November 13, 2009 fire in the PT Barnum Apartments killed Tiana Black, 22, and her three children, Ny-shon Williams, 5, and 4-year-old twins, Nyaisja and Tyaisja William. Black’s estate sued the city, Mayor William Finch, Fire Chief Brian Rooney, Fire Marshal William Cosgrove, Zoning Administrator Dennis Buckley, and Building Official Peter Paajanen, alleging (among other things) that the city’s failure to conduct state mandated inspections was a contributing factor in the fatalities.

That case, Williams v. Bridgeport, was in the news last December when the Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that trial court erred in granting the city a summary judgment based on immunity. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial court concluding that Black’s estate should be allowed to argue to the jury that the city’s utter failure to meet its obligation to inspect buildings is so outrageous that it may constitute recklessness, an exception to which immunity does not apply.

The defendants in the Williams wrongful death suit are now suing Worth Construction, Inc., accusing it of negligence in rehabilitating the building, and seeking indemnification in the event Black’s estate prevails at trial.

From the complaint:

  • On or about June 25, 1993, BHA and Worth Construction entered into a contract whereby Worth Construction agreed to serve as the general contractor for a project known as the “Rehabilitation of P. T. Barnum Apartments, Demolition/Construction, Phase II-VII, Project No. CONN 1-5,” to furnish all labor, materials, services and equipment and to perform and complete all work required for the project in strict accordance with the Specifications and any Addenda thereto. The subject Premises were part of this renovation project.
  • Pursuant to the Contract with BHA, Worth Construction was to ensure that the renovated buildings and apartments, including the subject Premises, complied with all fire and safety standards, codes and regulations
  • Pursuant to the terms of the Contract with BHA, Worth Construction was responsible for ensuring that the shop drawings were in compliance with the contract requirements and that construction was completed in accordance therewith.
  • The Contract with BHA also required Worth Construction to ensure that the drawings and specifications were in compliance with all applicable codes and regulations bearing on the work.
  • Pursuant to the Contract with BHA, Worth Construction warrantied compliance of the construction to the contract requirements and that work on the Premises was free from any defect in equipment, material or workmanship.
  • Pursuant to its Contract with BHA, Worth Construction further agreed that for products or workmanship specified by association, trade, of Federal Standards, the Project would comply with the requirements of the standard, except when more rigid requirements were specified or were required by applicable codes.
  • Worth Construction also agreed, pursuant to the terms of its Contract with BHA, that the work would comply with specified standards as a minimum quality for the work except when more stringent tolerances, codes or specified requirements indicated higher standards or more precise workmanship.
  • Throughout the course of the performance of the Contract, certain codes required that Worth Construction perform the renovations to the Premises in compliance with all applicable building codes.
  • The municipal plaintiffs relied on representations by Worth Construction that it complied with all applicable building codes and regulations.
  • If any of the alleged conditions of the Premises proximately caused the decedents’ deaths as alleged by the Williams plaintiff, which allegations are denied by the municipal plaintiffs, such conditions were proximately and directly due to the negligence of Worth Construction.
  • As a result of the negligence and carelessness of Worth Construction, as indicated above, the municipal plaintiffs have been damaged in that they have been forced to expend significant sums of money to defend themselves in a suit filed by the Williams plaintiff relating to the alleged losses as set forth above.
  • If the municipal plaintiffs are found liable to the Williams plaintiff, it is entitled to indemnification from Worth Construction for such sum and its defense costs.

Here is a copy of the lawsuit: Bridgeport v Worth Construction

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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