Settlement in NHC Nursing Home Fire Case
David Randolph Smith
David Randolph Smith Edmund J. Schmidt III
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Kin Settles Suits in Nursing Home Blaze

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Oct 14, 2004 (AP Online via COMTEX)
(link)

Families of victims of a deadly nursing home fire last year settled 28 of 32 lawsuits against the company that owned the facility, lawyers announced Thursday.Settlement details were not released. Mediator Lew Conner called the deal "successful beyond my expectations." "I don't know that there's ever been in Tennessee this sort of a mass resolution by mediation of a mass tort," he said.Eight people were killed in the Sept. 25, 2003, fire at NHC HealthCare Center, owned by Murfreesboro-based National HealthCare Corp., and another seven residents died in the months following.

The cause of the fire has never been officially determined, and investigators closed their probe in June. The families had accused National HealthCare Corp. of negligence. Conner and David Randolph Smith, lead counsel for the families of 17 fire victims, told Judge Barbara Haynes that 14 death cases and all 14 injury cases were resolved. Smith said the company was willing to explore an alternative to trial that saved time and expense.

"This means closure for the families," said Blair Durham, another plaintiffs lawyer. "Trial is a battle. Mediation is a calm process."
Three of the unsettled lawsuits are still in mediation, and the other has not yet entered mediation, the statement said.\

The nursing home did not have a sprinkler system, and none was required at the time. Soon afterward, the company agreed to spend at least $10 million installing sprinklers in its facilities. And after that fire and another in January at a retirement home, Tennessee passed laws ordering such equipment in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

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