$5M settlement reached in 2011 Stamford fire that killed 5 family members
HARTFORD – A contractor who accidentally caused a fire at a Connecticut home that killed three girls and two of their grandparents on Christmas morning in 2011 has agreed to settle part of a wrongful death lawsuit by paying the children’s father $5 million.
Court records obtained by The Associated Press show that the contractor, Michael Borcina, and his company settled Matthew Badger’s lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court on Dec. 10. Badger’s lawyer confirmed the settlement amount Tuesday.
The fire in Stamford killed 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger, 9-year-old Lily Badger, and their maternal grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson. The girls’ mother, Madonna Badger, and Borcina were dating at the time and escaped the fire.
Authorities said the fire began after Borcina left a bag of fireplace ashes in a bin in a mudroom in the house. Borcina, who was renovating the $1.7 million Victorian home, was accused in the lawsuit of contributing with other defendants to make the house a “firetrap,” including failing to install a smoke detection system during the construction.
A lawyer for Borcina didn’t return a message Tuesday. A phone listing for Borcina could not be found. Matthew Badger and Madonna Badger did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Richard Emery, a New York lawyer representing Matthew Badger, said the $5 million settlement is the first in the lawsuit, which remains pending against several other defendants.
“It is nowhere near reflective of the ultimate value of this case: three little girls’ lives,” Emery said. “No money could compensate for that.”
Matthew Badger filed the lawsuit in July 2012 against Borcina, his company Tiberias Construction of New York City, the city of Stamford and others. Claims against the city and other defendants remain unresolved.
“The girls died before they could escape the home, which had become a firetrap as a result of months of substandard construction leading up to the fire,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also says city officials knew or should have known that Borcina served as the home’s general contractor but didn’t have a state home improvement contractor’s license. Stamford officials previously denied any wrongdoing in connection with the fire. The city’s corporation counsel, Kathryn Emmett, didn’t return a message Tuesday.
The home’s architect, electrician and general contractor listed on the building permit also were included as defendants.
A state prosecutor concluded in 2012 that no criminal charges should be filed.
Madonna Badger has said that Borcina ran his hands over the ashes to make sure they were out before putting the bag in the bin in the mudroom, just before they went to sleep after wrapping presents early on Christmas morning.
Madonna Badger, an advertising executive in New York, also is suing the city, alleging Stamford officials intentionally destroyed evidence when they demolished Badger’s home without notice shortly after the fire. City officials denied that.