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Night Club Owners Beware: Your Patron's Safety Is Your Responsibility

Nightclub fires are a tragic example of  how bad decisions combined with bad luck end with fatal consequences. In the case of the recent nightclub fire in Brazil, bad judgment on many levels contributed to the tragedy. It's easy for a bystander to think, sometimes bad luck strikes and  these things just happen, but the reality is that this and may other notable fires could have been prevented – and that ultimately there is a responsible party. In the Brazilian fire, like the Station Night Club fire in Rhode Island USA, the highly flammable acoustic foam was ignited by pyrotechnics used during a performance. Whether use of the fireworks was sanctioned by the club owner or initiated by the band without the club owner's knowledge may or may not have an affect on who is ultimately found liable for the disaster. Adding to the danger, the Brazilian club owner had sealed off all of the windows allowing just one way for the panicked club goers to escape the blaze. Again the club owner was thinking only about keeping would-be thieves from breaking into the club, but in doing so, without adding additional exits, set the stage for the terrible tragedy.

The United States is certainly no stranger to night club fires and as a result, fire safety codes have been created to try and reduce the risk. Most notably after the deadliest night club fire in US history,  at Boston's Cocoanut Grove club in 1942 where an astounding 492 people lost their lives. New codes were created, including the use of automatic sprinkler systems, light and marked exits, and emergency lights that can operate separate from the main power system.

However, no amount of safety codes will protect against club owners making exceedingly bad decisions. To most of us it's common sense to never light fireworks indoors and yet this continues to happen.

During the legal fallout of such a tragedy it will become very clear that the club owner did not have enough insurance coverage to compensate those injured or the families who have lost loved ones.

How can anyone put a price on such things?

It remains a tough subject, but long after the news reporters have left town the families of those who have lost a provider will be left in a much more difficult financial situation that can have a negative impact not only on personal loss but on their financial future. Therefore it will ultimately fall on the family's lawyers, and jury members to determine the amount of money the club owner's insurance company must pay the families of the injured and deceased.  As a personal injury attorney nothing could be more difficult than having to put a value on a family's loss. But to pursue justice or at the very least, financial support for the families, an attorney must take this responsibility and fight for the victims of such negligence until justice has been served.

Attorney Bernard F Walsh

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