Fire and Explosion

A devastating fire, explosion, or some other catastrophic loss presents various complex issues requiring immediate and effective handling. If the event results in significant property damage, business loss, injuries, or fatalities, Robinson+Cole's fire and explosion lawyers can quickly be on scene, ready to take the investigative lead and to minimize any adverse effects to our client.

The rules regarding spoliation of evidence are changing rapidly. Manufacturers that were accustomed to receiving notice of products liability claims months or years after the loss occurred are now being invited to examine the scene of the incident within days or weeks. Most manufacturers are responding to the invitations and participate to some extent in the scene investigation. But are they taking full advantage of the opportunity to investigate the loss?

Investigating a loss involves more than sending a specialist or engineer familiar with your product to the loss site, especially if the loss was caused by a fire or explosion. A proper fire or explosion investigation includes determining the source of ignition or detonation, the first fuel ignited, the circumstances that brought the ignition source in contact with the first fuel, why the fire was not suppressed or controlled by the fire suppression system, and what factors allowed the fire to spread beyond the area of origin.

Our Fire and Explosion Group is experienced in leading investigations, from the simple restaurant fire to the destruction of a major manufacturing facility. We provide immediate response to a catastrophic event by assembling a team of investigative experts who go on scene to preserve evidence, interview witnesses, and document information from appropriate authorities. Although a product might not have functioned as designed, a proper investigation may show that its failure to perform as designed was not the cause of the loss. For example, the fire might have started in a product, but investigation may reveal it was altered after it left the factory. Or, investigation may show that a fire suppression system designed to protect a particular area, although it did not function properly, was not the cause of the fire spread if the fire started outside of the protected area.

Robinson+Cole's Fire and Explosion Group has the national experience to help companies minimize liability claims. Fire and explosion investigations require experienced professionals. Our team of lawyers works with a nationwide network of top forensic professionals who can promptly respond to a loss site anywhere in the U.S. to investigate fully the root cause of the loss, to analyze the potential liability, and, when appropriate, to help adverse parties identify the persons or entities really responsible for the incident and damage. Our clients find that conducting a thorough early investigation ultimately avoids most litigation and saves significant expenses in the long run.

Additionally, we regularly communicate with the governmental agencies that investigate devastating losses, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and other agencies, in guiding our clients through the legal ramifications resulting from a governmental investigation.

    • Experience
      • Represented a university in the investigation of a dormitory fire, to determine the cause of fire and to make recommendations to prevent a reoccurrence.
      • Represented an insurer in the investigation and defense of the largest arson fire in New York state history, with property damage in excess of $100 million.
      • Represented a manufacturer in the explosion of the world's largest hot isostatic press, with property damage in excess of $40 million.
      • Represented a manufacturer whose product allegedly caused a fire at a Nevada casino that resulted in property damage in excess of $25 million.
      • Conducted over 100 on-site restaurant fire investigations for a leading manufacturer of commercial restaurant equipment, preventing litigation in over 90 percent of matters.
      • Represented the owner of a Rhode Island wire mill facility in pursuing a $75 million claim against a utility company resulting from a high voltage electrical fire.
      • Represented an owner of real property in New York City in which a fire caused three buildings to collapse, resulting in property damage in excess of $20 million and personal injuries.
      • Representation of HVAC contractor in defense of various matters involving building and fire code violations, including an alleged defective sprinkler system, which caused $3 million in property damage.

      • Represented a manufacturer in a yacht fire that caused over $10 million in property damage to the Miami Beach Marina and vessels in the marina.
      • Represented an international pharmaceutical company in initial response to, and long-term strategy associated with, a chemical explosion that resulted in personal injuries, significant property damage, and regulatory issues.
      • Represented a Fortune 50 company that had a chemical explosion at a facility, resulting in a fatality as well as tens of millions of dollars in property damage.
      • Represented the London market, insurer of a power plant in Texas that experienced an explosion resulting in property damage in excess of $30 million.
      • Represented a Fortune 10 manufacturer in the largest fire to occur in New Hampshire in 40 years, with millions of dollars of property damage.
      • Represent the insurer of a SM racing yacht that was destroyed in a fire off the coast of Antigua.

      • Obtained a multimillion-dollar settlement for a real estate owner against a contractor who caused a fire resulting in over $50 million in damages.

      • Successfully represented a group of insurers in the ConEd steam explosion cases that caused tens of millions of dollars in property damages.

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    • News
      • March 24, 2017

        Insurance + Reinsurance Group Lawyers Present at 39th Annual Arson Seminar

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      • August 12, 2011

        Rebecca Levy-Sachs Elected a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation

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      • August 12, 2010

        Providence Business News Names Dana Horton As “40 Under Forty” Recipient

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        • View article
      • July 27, 2010

        Two Robinson & Cole Attorneys Named to Hartford Business Journal’s “40 Under Forty”

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    • Publications + Presentations
    • "NFPA 1033: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigators," for the National Association of Subrogation Professionals

      "Incorporating New Development Relating to NFPA 921 and 1033 into Your Litigation Strategy," at the Fire and Casualty Claims and Litigation Conference, American Conference Institute

      "Product Defects and Recalls and Their Impact on the Claims Process," at the Fire and Casualty Claims and Litigation Conference, American Conference Institute

      "Deposition and Trial Training for Public and Private Fire Investigators," conducted sessions at International Association of Arson Investigators training in Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island

      "Rating Your Fire Expert," for the National Association of Subrogation Professionals

      "Spontaneous Combustion Losses," for the National Association of Subrogation Professionals

      "Maximizing Subrogation Recovery," at Travelers Property Casualty Corp.

      "Preservation of Fire Scenes/Evidence," at the Hartford Insurance Company

      "Admissibility of Fire Investigators' Testing," for the New England Claim Executives Association

      "Critical Developments in Fire Scene Investigations," for the New England Claim Executives Association

      "Preparing for and Providing Testimony in a Fire Case," co-presented by Eugene P. Murphy and Daniel F. Sullivan, at the Florida Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention 39th Annual Seminar, held at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala, Florida (3/8/2017)
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      "Cross Examination of Experts," presented by Daniel F. Sullivan, at the Connecticut Fire Academy's Annual Advanced Fire Training Session (5/4/2016)
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      "Daubert Standards for Expert Witness Testimony: Effective Strategies for Bringing and Defending Daubert Challenges," presented through Strafford Webinar Publications, Hartford, Connecticut (2011)

      "Selecting & Utilizing Fire Experts," at National Association of Fire Investigators Fire Litigation Skills Conference, Sarasota, Florida (2011)

      "Supervising the Arson Case," at Travelers Insurance Claim University, Windsor, Connecticut (2011)

Our Team