Grieving Mother Sues For Destruction of Home After FIre

A grieving mother who lost her three children and her parents in a tragic Christmas morning fire in 2011, has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Stamford, Connecticut and local officials for the wrongful demolition of her home in the hours following the fire.

Madonna Badger barely escaped the blaze and had to be hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Local officials were quick to attribute the fire to accidentally discarded fireplace ashes, something Badger vehemently disputes.

The suit alleges that city officials illegally ordered the destruction of the home without giving Badger notice or even an opportunity to remove any of her valued possessions and mementos. Those possessions were lost forever when the city could not determine where the debris had been removed to. The demolition also foreclosed Badger from being able to conduct her own forensic examination of the fire scene to discover the true cause.

Here is the introductory statement from the complaint itself:

This is a claim in which the plaintiff seeks redress against the City of Stamford, Connecticut and two individuals, Building Official Robert D. DeMarco and Director of Operations Ernest Orgera, for the deprivation and denial of her Federal Civil Rights. Briefly, the plaintiff’s home was involved in a fire on Christmas Day December 25, 2011.

As a result of the fire the plaintiff lost her three minor daughters: nine-year-old Lily and her seven-year-old twin sisters, Sarah and Grace; along with her parents, Lomar and Pauline Johnson. On the morning of December 26, 2011, following the fire that claimed five innocent lives, without preserving the critical evidence necessary to conduct a competent objective forensic examination or notifying the plaintiff of their intended actions, the defendants intentionally, arbitrarily and recklessly demolished the plaintiff’s home and its remaining contents.

Immediately following the demolition and in the absence of exigent circumstances the defendants authorized the seizure and disposal of all the physical evidence from the fire. The defendants’ actions were carried out pursuant to one or more established municipal policies. Without any rational basis the defendants intentionally treated the plaintiff and her property differently than other similarly situated residents of Stamford who sustained property damage following a fire.

Here is a copy of the 45 page, ten count complaint: Badger v Stamford Complaint

Among the allegations are violations of Badger’s due process, equal protection, and 4th Amendment rights.  The action was filed in US District Court for the District of Connecticut on January 3, 2013.

The suit does not allege wrongful death. Badger’s ex-husband, Matthew Badger, filed a wrongful death suit in state court last summer on behalf of his three daughters naming a host of parties including:

  • Michael Borcina – a contractor
  • Tiberias Construction
  • Michael Foley
  • Mike Foley’s Fine Carpentry, Inc.
  • Robert Dean
  • New Canaan Design Partners LLC
  • Stephen Holt
  • Shoreline Electrical Contracting LLC
  • The City of Stamford

An additional wrongful death suit on behalf of Madonna Badger’s parents is expected.

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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