A new legislative proposal in Rhode Island, inspired in large part by the Station Club tragedy a year ago, would offer immediate financial aid to employees injured or killed at businesses that do not

NASHVILLE--A new legislative proposal in Rhode Island, inspired in large part by the Station Club tragedy a year ago, would offer immediate financial aid to employees injured or killed at businesses that do not have workers' compensation coverage.

House Bill 7491, put forth at the request of the Rhode Island Trial Lawyers Assn., would create a state fund set up to pay medical bills and death benefits to the uninsured employees or their famlies while the state prosecutes their employer.

The proposal comes a year after the Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., killed 100 people and injured 200 others during a concert by the band Great White last Feb. 20. The Station's owners had never purchased workers' comp coverage.

Brothers Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, owners of the Station, already face a penalty of more than $1 million for failure to carry workers' compensation insurance.

The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) also fined the brothers $85,200 for seven violations. Both fines have been appealed, according to Jeffrey Pine, attorney for the Derderians (Billboard Magazine, Feb. 21).

The new bill is sponsored by Reps. Robert Jacquard, D-Cranston, Joseph Moran III, D-Central Falls, and Frank Montanaro, D-Cranston.

Steve Minicucci, past president of the Rhode Island Trial Lawyers Assn. and chairman of a "plaintiff steering committee" tells ELW the bill is about restoring rights to injured workers, while giving employers incentive to provide a safe work environment.

Meanwhile, Minicucci says the various civil suits, which some have estimated to total more than $1 billion, are still subject to jurisdictional confusion as to whether they should be tried in state or federal courts.

A federal judge in December put a stay into effect on all civil suits, Minicucci says, stalling proceedings. If the cases do proceed to the federal courts, possibly even the Supreme Court, more problems could await.

Still, Minicucci and his team think there may be civil culpability well beyond those indicted criminally, specifically the club owners and former Great White tour manager Dan Biechele.

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