June 03, 2020
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Third wrongful death lawsuit filed against landlord in case of deadly Portland fire

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A plastic rose adorns a post across the way from the building at 20-24 Noyes St. in Portland, where a fire killed five people on Nov. 1, in this December 2014 file photo. A sixth victim died later in the hospital.

PORTLAND, Maine — A law firm representing one of the victims of the deadly Nov. 1 fire on Noyes Street confirmed Wednesday that it has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the building’s landlord.

The move represents the third wrongful death lawsuit filed against Gregory Nisbet in the aftermath of the 20-24 Noyes St. blaze, which claimed the lives of six people and is considered Maine’s deadliest fire in four decades.

The Portland law firm of Berman & Simmons confirmed Wednesday that firm partner Steven Silin filed the complaint in Cumberland County Superior Court on behalf of David Bragdon Sr. and Pamela Rhodus, parents of 27-year-old fire victim David Bragdon Jr.

Silin said Wednesday evening he filed a motion for a prejudgment attachment seeking $4 million in damages for his clients — $3 million representing the estimated lifetime earnings of David Bragdon Jr., $500,000 for the lost love and affection for family members, and another $500,000 for the pain and suffering likely experienced by the victim.

“[Bragdon’s parents] are looking for answers and they are looking for justice and that’s what we hope to accomplish in the filing of this lawsuit,” Silin said.

Nisbet was sued in November by the family of 29-year-old victim Steven Summers and earlier this month by the parents of 29-year-old victim Ashley Thomas.

Also killed in the blaze were building tenant Nicole Finlay, 26, and visitors Christopher Conlee, 25, of Portland and Maelisha Jackson, 26, of Topsham.

Silin said he expects the wrongful death lawsuits to be consolidated, and said like the previous two, his clients’ complaint argues Nisbet was at fault for the deaths because smoke detectors were left disabled and at least one exit from the structure was blocked at the time of the fire.

John Veilleux, a Portland attorney representing Nisbet, maintained what has been relative silence on the fire and subsequent lawsuits when contacted Wednesday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families, but with lawsuits pending and investigations still pending, we have no further comment,” he said.

During a Wednesday news conference, Portland Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria and State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas announced that investigators determined the fire to be accidental, caused by improperly discarded cigarettes on the building’s porch.

But LaMoria also said smoke detectors at the site were disabled and exits blocked at the time of the fire, exacerbating the loss of life. He said the investigators’ report will be reviewed by the Cumberland County district attorney’s office to determine if any charges should be filed in the case.

The 20-24 Noyes St. building was the subject of 16 complaints by neighbors going back to 2003, including some about buildups of trash and combustibles at the property, and another about the alleged use of third-floor space as a makeshift third living unit in what was recognized by the city as a two-unit dwelling.


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