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March 30, 2013

Court upholds $1M fine in RI nightclub fire

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The state workers’ compensation court yesterday upheld a $1 million fine against the brothers who owned a Rhode Island nightclub where 100 people died in a 2003 fire, a decision that said the brothers flagrantly violated a law that required them to carry workers’ compensation insurance for almost three years.

Four employees died from the fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick on Feb. 20, 2003, which was started when a rock band’s pyrotechnics set fire to flammable foam installed as soundproofing by owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian.

A three-judge panel of the court rejected the Derderians’ appeal of the $1,066,000 penalty, which was calculated by multiplying the daily maximum penalty of $1,000 by 1,066, the number of days they failed to have workers’ compensation insurance.

Lawyers for the Derderians did not immediately return messages seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor and Training, which brought the complaint, would not comment.

The brothers declared bankruptcy after the fire, but a federal bankruptcy judge found the fine amounted to a penalty and could not be discharged under the law. Still, it’s unclear whether the fine will ever be completely paid.

Both brothers pleaded no contest in 2006 to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Jeffrey, a former TV reporter, received a suspended sentence and works at a food products company. Michael served less than three years in prison. Since his release in 2008, he has not been steadily employed.

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