Four years after a furniture store fire claimed the lives of nine Charleston firefighters, Sofa Super Store and its owners have settled for $1.8 million in a lawsuit filed by the firefighters’ families. The suit was the final remaining piece of litigation surrounding the June 18, 2007, blaze in West Ashley.
Kevin Dean, an attorney with Motley Rice who represented some of the families, says part of the reason the families agreed to settle was because of “the emotional trauma that they’ve had to go through for four years and not being able to close this chapter.” He says it was a fair resolution to the suit.
Heather Baity, widow of fallen firefighter Rodney Baity, said in a press release that no family should have to endure what she and the other Charleston Nine families have gone through. “My hope is that we not only continue to honor the memory of the Charleston nine, but also call attention to the negligence and failures that led to the tragedy,” Baity said in a press release.
The families had filed a lawsuit for wrongful death and emotional damages, alleging that the store had knowingly failed to comply with building codes and install sprinklers. But the case stalled for years because of what Dean calls “delay tactics” on the part of Sofa Super Store and its owner, Herb Goldstein. Specifically, he mentioned the now-aborted attempt to add the City of Charleston as a co-defendant in the lawsuit. The process was also lengthened when nine former firefighters sued Sofa Super Store for physical and emotional damages.
All of major litigation is now finished, and The Post and Courier reported that more than $18 million in total settlements have been paid to the families. But Goldstein and Sofa Super Store could still face charges, says Dean, if Ninth Judicial Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson chooses to pursue a criminal negligence case. Wilson was not available for comment Friday.