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Grenfell families launch legal action in US against firms they blame for blaze

Friday marks the second anniversary of the fire which killed 72 people.

Legal action has been launched in the US on behalf of survivors and bereaved relatives of those killed in the Grenfell Tower fire (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Legal action has been launched in the US on behalf of survivors and bereaved relatives of those killed in the Grenfell Tower fire (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Survivors and bereaved relatives of many of those killed in the Grenfell Tower fire are suing three firms over the blaze, in legal action described as “one of the largest product liability cases in history”.

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in the United States, lawyers representing more than 200 people said.

The companies named on the 143-count wrongful death and products liability complaint are Arconic, Celotex and Whirlpool, all of which have headquarters in the US.

Arconic supplied cladding on the outside of the tower block, Celotex provided insulation used in the cladding system and Whirlpool produced the fridge freezer where the fire is believed to have started.

Lawyers for two US law firms said they have requested a jury trial in Philadelphia, seeking “undetermined compensation, including punitive damages”.

Those involved in the legal action – taken on behalf of 69 of the 72 who died and 177 of those injured –  have said the three companies must be held to account over the deadly blaze.

Corporations must be held to account for each and every person who died or was injured Survivor Marcio Gomes

Robert Mongeluzzi, from the law firm Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky (SMBB), said: “We are honoured and humbled to represent our clients in their quest for justice.

“We seek to hold these American companies accountable on their home turf to send a message that conduct like this will not be tolerated anywhere in the world.”

Friday marks the two-year anniversary of the fire which killed 72 people.

At a press conference in Philadelphia on Tuesday Jeffrey Goodman, of SMBB, said: “Today we announce the filing of one of the largest product liability cases in history.”

The lawsuit, which runs to more than 400 pages, states that the tower became a “flaming coffin” when the fire took hold.

Lawyers, who said it would be up to a jury to decide the amount awarded in damages if the action is successful, said it could be two-and-a-half years before the case comes to trial.

Marcio Gomes escaped the burning tower with his wife and two daughters, but the couple’s son Logan Gomes was later stillborn in hospital.

Of the lawsuit, Mr Gomes said: “Corporations must be held to account for each and every person who died or was injured; from our son, the youngest person to lose his life, to the grandparents who died protecting the ones they loved.

“We will never forget. We will not let them down. We will see justice for all at Grenfell.”

Nicholas Burton’s 74-year-old wife Maria del Pilar Burton, survived the fire but died six months later in palliative care, and came to be considered the 72nd victim of the blaze.

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Friday marks the two-year anniversary of the fire (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Mr Burton said: “This lawsuit is about holding them accountable, and the most effective way to do that is by suing them where they are based – in the United States.

“This is a wake-up call for all major corporations who behave as if they are above the law and refuse to face up to the damage they cause or change their ways, even after horrific disasters like the Grenfell Tower fire.”

A spokesman for Arconic said: “Arconic has no comment on any potential litigation. We continue to support the Public Inquiry and the investigations by the authorities.”

A spokesman for Celotex said: “The company is considering its position in relation to this action.”

They added that the firm “remains committed to providing all relevant information to the Inquiry to assist it in its work”.

A spokeswoman for Whirlpool said: “While the inquiry is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.

“Separately, we would like to reassure owners of these products that they are safe and they can continue to use them as normal.”

Deborah Coles, executive director of the charity Inquest, said: “Families and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire have been loud and clear: they want to ensure no-one else should have to go through something like this ever again.

“This legal action aims to achieve corporate accountability and safer practices which will benefit us all.”

PA

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