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April 30, 2003
R.I. Nightclub Fighting $1M Workers' Comp Fine

The owners of The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., which burned on Feb. 20 and left 99 people dead, are challenging a $1.06 million fine they received for failing to carry the required workers' compensation insurance, according to the Associated Press.

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The fine is the maximum that Rhode Island officials could have imposed on brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian - $1,000 a day for the nearly three years they owned the club.

Lawyers for the Derderians have acknowledged that the brothers did not have the required insurance, but they contend the fine is excessive and unprecedented, the AP reports. It is the highest workers' compensation insurance fine ever imposed in Rhode Island.

Workers' Compensation Court Judge Bruce Morin said Wednesday that the Derderians' lawyers have until May 23 to file briefs on the matter. The state, meanwhile, will also submit papers outlining how it reached the figure.

Once the briefs are received by the Workers' Compensation Court, attorneys from both sides will have one week to reply to each other's filings. The judge will then make a decision based on the briefs.

Michael Derderian's lawyer, Kathleen Hagerty, called the Department of Labor and Training's fine a ''knee jerk reaction to the ultimate tragedy,'' the fire.

''Obviously the devastation that occurred was not a result of the Derderians not having workers' compensation insurance,'' she said.

But according to labor department lawyer Bernard Healy, the case has received no special treatment. It's the severity of the violation that warrants the penalty, he said.

The Station was destroyed in a fire that officials believe started after pyrotechnics used by the band Great White ignited foam surrounding the club's stage.

Jeff Pine, the lawyer for Jeffrey Derderian, has said there were about 16 employees working at The Station that night, four of whom died. The AP said it's unclear how many employees were injured.


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