Coffey McPharlin Featured for $2 Million Dollar Settlement in Daily Business Review Regarding Plantation PizzaFire Explosion
Sam Coffey of Coffey Trial law was featured in the Daily Business Review regarding his initial settlement in the Market on University Explosion in Plantation.
Broward Lawyer Guides $2M Settlement as Case Continues Over Shopping Center Explosion
In less than two weeks, a Fort Lauderdale attorney will recover $2 million in a settlement for nearly 30 of the 50 people and businesses that were victims of a gas explosion at a Plantation shopping center.
Sam Coffey, a partner at Coffey McPharlin in Fort Lauderdale who represents the businesses and victims, said the $2 million settlement proposal made by Scottsdale Insurance Co. is just the tip of the iceberg in his larger, evolving litigation strategy.
“If you keep on digging, you’re going to find more defendants,” Coffey said. “And if you have defendants with limited insurance coverage, allow them to resolve the case early because it’s going to give us a war chest to fund our litigation. The cost of this litigation is going to exceed half a million dollars before it gets to trial and we can use their money against them.”
Patricia A. McLean, a partner at Phelps Dunbar in Tampa representing Scottsdale, did not respond to a request seeking comment.
The underlying litigation stemmed from a July 6, 2019, explosion that injured 23 people. At the same time, about 20 businesses closed in the days after the destruction that shattered windows and scattered debris throughout the mall. A Twitter video from the scene showed an affected area.
The Plantation Fire Department, Plantation Police Department, and the Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosives detectives reported the smell of gas in a vacant PizzaFire Restaurant a couple of minutes before the explosion. Authorities later concluded that an uncapped gas line, exposed for seven months, was the cause.
Next up: mediation
Now, Coffey has scheduled a mediation with Scottsdale on Aug. 16 over which Christopher Morin, a partner at Murray, Morin & Herman in Tampa, will preside. They intend to discuss the distribution of the proceeds from the proposed settlement against Scottsdale’s insured, Best Buy Auctioneers.com Inc.
In a “tender” letter, Scottsdale indicated that while it does not have complete information regarding the plaintiffs, potential claimants, the extent of their damages and injuries, or the insured’s liability in connection with these claims, it is ready to talk numbers.
Scottsdale said it “intends to offer and hereby make available, in good faith, the applicable $2,000,000 in limits under the policies to settle as many as possible of the claims made and to be made against BBA arising from the incident.”
Samuel Coffey of Coffey McPharlin in Fort Lauderdale. Courtesy photo
Coffey also invited additional entities to that mediation: Locust Gardens LLC, Edens L.P. and Peoples Gas Co., the property managers, and the leasing company. He said that through some digging he found them allegedly liable for the mall explosion.
Cherie Jacobs, media spokeswoman for Peoples Gas, declined to comment on pending litigation. The remaining companies did not respond to a request seeking comment.
Coffey claimed that these entities could have prevented the explosion from happening by taking some basic steps. For instance, the Fort Lauderdale litigator pointed to the Florida building code, which required the capping of a used gas line immediately.
And if the mediation does not lead to a settlement with the parties other than Scottsdale, a trial is set for June 2022 before Broward Circuit Court Judge Patricia Henning. But through his investigation, Coffey said at least two additional entities could become defendants in a separate lawsuit, allegedly due to negligence.
“They have refused to acknowledge responsibility and instead have taken the position to blame everyone else,” Coffey said in an interview. “Unfortunately, the only way to correct this type of recalcitrant behavior is through litigation.”