Posted on 27 Jun 2012 by Neilson
The estates of Lomer and Pauline Johnson, the two people killed along with their three granddaughters in a massive Christmas day fire on Shippan Point, have joined a list of plaintiffs intending to sue the city.
The city clerk's office received separate intent to sue notices Monday filed by Wade Johnson, the Johnsons' son and the administrator of their estates. Johnson is the brother of Madonna Badger, the owner of the 116-year-old home at 2267 Shippan Ave. and the mother of 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace Badger, who died in the fire.
The notices were filed on the six-month anniversary of the fire -- the latest day the estates would have been legally allowed to file them.
Madonna Badger, who escaped the fire along with her friend, contractor Michael Borcina, has also filed an intent to sue notice, as has her estranged husband, Matthew Badger.
According to the notices filed with the city, the estates plan to sue the city for "property damage, personal injury and civil rights violations arising from and as a result of negligent and otherwise wrongful conduct of the City of Stamford," stemming from the city's decision to knock down the waterfront house the day after the fire.
The notices say both Lomer and Pauline Johnson, who lived in Heritage Village in Southbury, sustained a loss of property valued at more than $3 million when the house was knocked down.
The estates claim Chief Building Official Robert DeMarco and other "agents, servants or employees of the city" caused the Johnsons' belongings to be "scrapped, converted and/or distracted without notice, warning or just compensation."
In addition to the lost property claim, the estates argue the city intentionally destroyed evidence that hindered the investigation into the cause of the fire and potentially denied the estates compensation.
Authorities say the blaze was started by embers in a bag of discarded fireplace ashes -- an account Madonna Badger called into question last week in an interview with NBC News.
Badger, a New York City advertising executive, told host Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" that she doesn't blame the fire on Borcina, who told investigators he cleaned out fireplace embers and placed them in a bag in an adjacent mudroom before he and Badger went to bed early Christmas morning.
The interview was broadcast two weeks after David Cohen, state's attorney for the Stamford-Norwalk Judicial District, announced that no criminal charges would be filed in the investigation. Cohen said there was not enough evidence to prove Badger or Borcina were negligent in the incident, which he partially attributed to city officials' decision to demolish the house a day after the tragedy.
Joseph Capalbo, the city's legal affairs director, said Monday's action "doesn't change the city's position on anything."
"We don't believe there's any liability on behalf of the city in connection with this fire, and we'll defend that claim," he said.