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Relatives of fire victims to get $8 mil.

A report filed last week with the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island proposed a benefits distribution system for minor children of the victims of the 2003 Station nightclub fire that claimed 100 lives. 

The report, authored by court-appointed Special Master William Poore, uses a point system to allocate over $8 million among the 41 minors whose parents died in the fire, an average of about $200,000. It allocates an additional $4.7 million among the 30 children of deceased victims who are no longer minors, an average of about $150,000.

In addition, 17 children of victims who survived the fire would receive a total of $1.5 million, or an average of $91,000.

The fire broke out at the West Warwick nightclub during a performance by the hard rock band Great White, when the band's manager set off a pyrotechnics display that ignited sound-proofing material on the club's walls. The manager pled guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter in February 2006. In September of that year, the club's owners agreed to a plea bargain and were also convicted on 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Poore used the point system proposed earlier this year by Francis McGovern, a professor of law at Duke University, for deciding the size of each claimant's settlement. Under the system, which Poore's report calls "eminently fair" and "remarkably consistent," children would receive marginally larger awards for each year under the age of 18 they were at the time of the fire.

These awards would make up just a small portion of the $176 million settlement of the civil class action suit that followed the fire. The damages are to be paid by 17 groups of defendants including the club's owners, the town of West Warwick and Anheuser Busch.

According to the report, one third of the total $176 million in damages will go to the plaintiffs' attorneys. Poore, an attorney with Providence-based Poore and Rosenbaum LLP, called the fee "standard and reasonable within the legal profession," in the report. The report goes on to state that the case required an unusual amount of effort and financial risk on the part of the attorneys.

The nearly $60 million in attorney fees will be split by seven Rhode Island law firms and the Boston-based Cooley Manion Jones LLP.

"The complexity of this litigation was perhaps unparalleled in this jurisdiction," Poore wrote.


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