Sofa Super Store settles in fire death lawsuits

People gather around memorials outside the remains of the store days after the fire. (File Photo)


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Several law firms representing several families who lost loved ones in the 2007 Sofa Super Store fire, have confirmed the owners of the store have settled lawsuits filed in the deaths of nine Lowcountry firefighters.

According to Motley Rice, one of the law firms representing family members of the fallen nine, the store has agreed to pay $1.9 million to the families of the men killed in the fire -- Bradford Baity, Mike Benke, Melvin Champaign, Earl Drayton, Mike French, Billy Hutchinson, Mark Kelsey, Louis Mulkey and Brandon Thompson.

The settlement was finalized on June 24, 2011. The money will be divided among members of the nine families, between $184,000 to $228,000 each.{}

The suit claims the Sofa Super Store's additions contributed to the fire spreading rapidly throughout the West Ashley store. The City of Charleston's independent review, Post Incident Assessment and Review Team Phase II Report, released in 2008, says the fire could have been prevented and quickly controlled if the property had been constructed and maintained in compliance with the building and fire codes.

It cited the lack of permits for the loading dock enclosure and the presence of "improperly stored flammable and combustible liquids within the loading dock." It also cited the "inadequate number of exits, locked exits, and obstructed paths to exits significantly reducing the potential for firefighters who were inside the showroom buildings to find a path to safety.

Motley Rice attorneys say the settlement in this lawsuit conclude all pending litigation.

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