Clear Channel Sued in Rock Nightclub Fire

The family of one of the victims of the tragic nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., has filed a damage suit not only against club owners Michael and Jeffrey Derderian—the latter a WPRI-TV Providence reporter—but also Clear Channel Communications, which, the suit said, marketed and sponsored the Great White show the night of the fire.

The suit is brought on behalf of 6-year-old Zoe Jean Kingsley, daughter of 27-year-old Lisa Kelly, of Swansea, Mass., who was one of the 97 people killed after pyrotechnics sparked the deadly fire. Also named as defendants were Anheuser-Busch and McLaughlin & Moran, Rhode Island's largest beer distributor, according to local reports.

It is not unusual for plaintiffs to cast a wide net when looking to assign liability for harm done to them; but it's also not unusual for courts to trim the list of defendants at various stages of legal proceedings.

In a statement, Clear Channel said that lawyers for Kelly's family was apparently interested in finding deep pockets to sue. Clear Channel has said its efforts on behalf of the concert were minimal and that it bore no responsibility for the fire that also took the lives of WHJY-FM DJ Michael "The Doctor" Gonsalves, who emceed the event, and the 20-year-old son of WHJY-FM talk-show host David Kane, who was at the concert.

Lisa Dollinger, senior vice president for marketing and communications for the multimedia giant, said, "Clear Channel was neither the producer, the sponsor, nor the promoter of this event. Clear Channel did not hire the band, Clear Channel did not sell tickets to the event, Clear Channel did not build the building in which the event was held, Clear Channel did not fire off pyrotechnics, and Clear Channel was not involved in looking at the contract for the event. Clear Channel was merely paid by the club owners to run advertising for the event."