The Station Fire Prosecution: Blaming the Foam Manufacturer for the Station Fire Was a Desperation Defense

On his WPRO-AM website, Dan Yorke has posted the state’s sentencing recommendation in the Derderian brothers case. The sentencing memo casts serious doubt on whether defense efforts to shift the blame to the foam-manufacturer were at all credible. The prosecution investigated this issue thoroughly and would have made the case that no evidence supported the claim that fire-retardant foam had been ordered, but a different product was shipped…

When the Defendants bought the Station, they bought both the assets and the liabilities of the business. One of the nightclub’s liabilities was its eroding good will in the residential neighborhood that abutted its location on Cowesett Avenue. For years, neighbors had complained to the authorities about the way the club had been run, including, but not limited to, the amount of noise that emanated from the club….
The Defendants visited the closest and most vocal neighbor shortly after purchasing The Station. In an effort to ease the neighbor’s concerns and complaints, the Defendants offered to buy him an air conditioner so that, even when it was warm, he could keep his windows closed, thereby reducing the amount of noise that he actually heard from The Station. The neighbor declined the offer.
During the same visit, which took place on the deck of the neighbor’s house, the neighbor casually informed the Defendants that he worked for a company that sold polyurethane foam. At the time, the neighbor was involved almost exclusively in the sale of such foam for use as packing material to protect products during shipping. The neighbor nevertheless offered his thoughts about sound deadening options, including the fact that foam had sound deadening qualities.
Documents show that soon after the visit to the neighbor?s house, Michael Derderian purchased the highly flammable polyurethane foam that line the south and west walls of The Station from the foam company for which the neighbor worked. The investigation of the fire revealed, and the trial evidence would have shown, that no person from or on behalf of the company from which Michael Derderian bought the foam every made any representations to Michael Derderian about the flammability of the foam. Indeed, the evidence shows that neither the neighbor nor any other person at the foam company with whom Michael Derderian may have dealt ever told him that the foam was fire retardant. Sadly, and conversely, it is equally true that none of these individuals ever advised Michael Derderian that the foam was not fire retardant.
Most significantly, as it relates to the counts on which the Defendants are about to be sentenced, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian never asked for objective proof that the foam that they bought and installed was flame resistant or otherwise satisfied the Rhode Island Fire safety Code
The memo suggests that Michael Derderian received the harsher of the two sentences because he was the one who made the actual decision to purchase the foam.

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