A settlement was reached this week in the lawsuit filed on behalf of the daughter of a 91-year-old woman killed in the June 2, 2015, fire at the upscale Columbia County retirement complex, Marshall Square.
The case against the owners of the complex, Resorts Lifestyle Communities, the builder Cameron General Contractors and three members of the Columbia County Fire Department was settled Monday, said attorney Harry Revel by email Tuesday. Revel represents Barbara Ellington, the daughter of Dorothy Carpenter who was killed in the fire.
Terms of the settlement are confidential. The case was set for trial in Columbia County Superior Court beginning Monday.
The lawsuit filed in June 2016 originally sought damages of $15 million over the wrongful death of Carpenter. The elderly, frail woman lived in an apartment just a few yards from where the fire is believed to have started in the third-floor billiards room. It is believed the fire started in the heating and air conditioning unit in the billiards room.
The manufacturer of the unit, Goodman Co., settled out of court earlier this year.
Although the fire alarm went off in the early morning hours of June 2, 2015, manager Chris Bryde and night concierge Zackery Freehof followed the company’s directive of investigating the cause of the alarm and turning it off before calling 911, according to court documents. The residents who were previously instructed to shelter in place until and unless staff came to escort them out stayed in their rooms.
A county code inspector told Marshall Square staff that they needed to develop an evacuation plan but it was never done, according to an earlier report in The Augusta Chronicle. No fire drills were ever conducted at the senior living complex either.
The lawsuit accused Marshall Square and its staff of negligence in policies and practices of fire safety, and in allowing a 91-year-old woman with physical disabilities to live in a third floor apartment. The lawsuit also contended Columbia County Fire Department Special Operations Chief Danny Kuhlmann, Capt. Gary Griffith and Lt. Jamie Champion were negligent in carrying out their duties that night.
The plaintiff’s claims against Fire Marshal Brian Clark, Battalion Chief Jimmie Paschal and Columbia County were dismissed by the plaintiff.
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