Wrongful death lawsuits: Maine arson victims suffered while trying to escape blaze

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The Berman & Simmons law firm has filed wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of the families of two men who died last September in an arson fire in Biddeford, Maine.

Michael Moore, 23, and his friend and roommate James Ford, 21, were trapped in their attic apartment at 35 Main St. when the fire was set on Sept. 18. Moore died the next day at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Ford died nearly one month later. The men had been friends since grade school.

Michael Bigos, an attorney with Berman & Simmons, filed the lawsuits against the owner of the building. According to the state Fire Marshal’s Office, there were more than 20 safety violations at the building, including the lack of a required second fire exit, and lack of working smoke alarms. The lawsuits were filed May 28 at York County Superior Court. Bigos seems more than $1.6 million for each man’s family for a lifetime of lost wages, conscious pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses.

The filing of the lawsuits was a major news story in Maine over the past week. Click on the links to see the coverage in the Portland Press Herald, the Biddeford Journal Tribune, WCSH TV, and WGME TV.

“The families of both of the victims in this fire will testify how hard working these two young men were and how big their hearts were,” Bigos told WGME TV in Portland.

“Given the terrible circumstances of their losses, the best way we can honor James and Michael’s life is to do a full and fair investigation and make all apartments in the state of Maine safer for other tenants.”

The Portland Press Herald reported that Ford’s girlfriend was Skyping with him at the time of the fire, and listened as the two men frantically looked for a way out.

Here’s an excerpt from the Press Herald story:

An affidavit by a former investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Michael Keely, says Ford and Moore died because there was no second means of escape from their apartment as required under the National Fire Protection Association life safety code, and because there was no working smoke detector near the door of the apartment.

“If the apartment was equipped with a second means of egress, as was required, it is almost certain that Ford and Moore would have escaped the building without injury or with minimal injury,” Keely said in the affidavit.