Three duct cleaning contractors are asking a judge to add the Gas Light Co. restaurant as a defendant in a lawsuit that seeks to recover $1.7 million in insurance claims paid after a massive December 2015 fire at the 64 Market St. restaurant and nightclub.
The Patriot and Harleysville insurance companies filed suit against Tri State Hood and Duct, Tri State Fire Protection and Portsmouth Steam of Rye claiming the fire was “caused by the gross negligence, negligence, carelessness and/or negligent acts” by the contractors, who were paid to inspect, maintain and clean the restaurant’s commercial kitchen hood and ducts prior to the fire. Harleysville reported it paid more than $1 million in fire-related claims and Patriot reported it paid more than $750,000 according to Seacoast Online.
Former Portsmouth Fire Chief Steve Achilles said on the day of the fire that it started in a duct and burned up through the roof. Gas Light owner Paul Sorli previously said the fire-suppression system for the stove failed to activate and it took 12 months, $2.5 million and help from restaurant staff, contractors and a local bank to get the building repaired and the business reopened.
In a pending request to the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire, the cleaning companies are asking a judge to have the Gas Light added as a defendant claiming recently produced evidence “indicates that the negligence of Gas Light Restaurant and/or its employees caused or contributed to the subject fire.” The companies note it’s past a deadline to add defendants, but contend “discovery has progressed slowly in this case.”
Sorli said Tuesday he cannot comment on the pending legal dispute.
The pair of insurance companies have objected to adding the Gas Light as a defendant arguing they are one and the same and “stand in the shoes” of Gas Light.
Tri State Hood previously reported to the court it worked for the Gas Light to clean kitchen hoods and ducts, but was terminated more than seven months before the fire. The company further contends “the fire was caused by the negligent acts or omissions” of Gas Light employees, “including its kitchen staff.”
Tri State Fire denies liability and informed the court it inspected the Gas Light’s fire-suppression system five months before the fire and the system passed the inspection. That company, as well as Portsmouth Steam, allege the fire was caused by negligence or omissions by Gas Light staff.
The four-alarm fire brought dozens of firefighters from 15 fire departments to battle the blaze that started in the first floor restaurant and burned through the roof of the 1880 building.
Insurance is for when a fire occurs, yet it can surely be agreed that kitchen duct cleaning prevents fires from occurring in the first place and this should be the overall objective for anyone.
Sometimes however, a potential fire risk can remain even weeks after a duct clean due to:
- Poor duct cleaning; or
- Grease accumulation in between cleans
Enter the Shepherd Filters solution, which goes that step further by reducing the risk of grease build-up in kitchen exhaust systems between cleans. This not only equates to less kitchen duct cleaning in the long-run, but keeps the chance of fire spreading down and any fire suppression systems can function and perform properly. Sleep well knowing that grease build-up is not an issue you no longer have to deal with.
Kitchen exhaust fires due to grease build-up leads to insurance companies rejecting claims to rebuild, not covering the loss of income or [as in this case] sue to recover any pay-out that may have been made.
We have seen our fair share of kitchen duct fires affecting restaurant operations, many of which never recover due to the amount of time and energy spent on fixing the damage caused, letting go of staff and lost income.
Don’t become the next news headline and contact us today!