Settlements reached in Maine apartment fire deaths

The families of two men who were trapped and died following an apartment fire in Biddeford, Maine, in 2014 have reached settlements in their civil lawsuits against the landlord.

Michael Moore, 23, and his friend and roommate James Ford, 21, were killed by a fire that was set at 35 Main St. on Sept. 18, 2014. According to the state Fire Marshal’s Office, there were more than 20 safety violations at the building.

Attorney Michael Bigos of Berman & Simmons represented the families of the victims in civil lawsuits against landlord Nielsen Clark. Those claims have been settled for a confidential amount, and the cases have been formally dismissed at U.S. District Court in Portland.

Bigos said the lawsuits helped bring attention to the lack of safety code compliance by landlords around Maine, and the need for better enforcement.

“These lawsuits were always about justice for the families of James and Michael. These good kids were loved by many in the community,” Bigos said.

“But the families had a larger goal. We wanted to improve the housing safety of all people in Maine by bringing code compliance into the public spotlight. Tenants deserve safe housing and landlords who comply with fire and building codes, plus adequate oversight by towns and cities,” he said. “By shining a light on flaws in the system, we achieved that goal.”

Biddeford city officials, including staff at the Biddeford Codes Enforcement Office, deserve credit for responding swiftly and firmly to the tragedy, Bigos said. The city continues to crack down on landlords who are out of compliance, and no one will be allowed to occupy the building at 35 Main St. until it is brought up to code.

Bigos also credited the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office with conducting a fair and thorough investigation into the deadly fire.

Maine Fire Marshal Joe Thomas urged landlords and other property owners throughout Maine to make sure they are up to date with fire and safety regulations.

“It’s an issue of responsibility. Tragedies such as this illustrate how important fire safety compartmentation and exiting are for ensuring occupants have the time and ability to safely evacuate in times of emergency,” Thomas said.

Meanwhile, the criminal case against the man who allegedly set the fire, 20-year-old Dylan Collins of Biddeford, remains ongoing and no trial date has been set, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Collins faces charges of murder and arson.

James Ford and Michael Moore