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Richmond residents file class action lawsuit against property owner over massive fire

The lawsuit alleges Seth Smith and Cornerstone Trading were negligent by failing to address “ultra-hazardous conditions” within the facility
richmond fire.PNG
Posted at 12:09 PM, Apr 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-21 12:09:06-04

WAYNE COUNTY— Two Richmond residents and a business have filed a class action lawsuit against the owner of a plastic recycling facility that caught fire earlier this month.

Tushawn Craig, Marquetta Stokes, and Limitless Pallets all own property that was part of the evacuation zone of the April 11 fire, records show.

On April 20, they filed a class action lawsuit against the property owners, Seth Smith and Cornerstone Trading Group.

As WRTV Investigates reported, the city cited Smith and Cornerstone Trading following a 2019 inspection that found fire hazards.

The lawsuit alleges Smith and Cornerstone Trading were negligent by failing to address “ultra-hazardous conditions” within the facility.

As a result, 2,000 people had to evacuate their homes as a result of the fire, the lawsuit read.

“Numerous potential plaintiffs experienced adverse health events including, but not limited to inhalation of noxious gasses and smoke, breathing complications, headaches, dizziness, skin rashes, and chest pain resulting in the need for medical care and causing great physical, emotion, and psychological pain and suffering,” read the lawsuit filed April 20.
 

People who lived near the fire were unable to go to work and lost income, and businesses were forced to close which diminished profits, the lawsuit alleges.
 
The lawsuit also alleges the fire caused “severe emotional distress” and that class members feared for their health and safety as chemicals, fumes, debris and asbestos were released from the fire.
 
Tushawn Craig, Marquetta Stokes, and Limitless Pallets are represented by Carmel law firm Crossen Law Firm LLC and Richmond attorney Benjamin Felton.
 
They’re asking a Wayne County court for $25,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, as well as reasonable attorneys fees.
 
They’re also asking a judge to certify the lawsuit as a class action.

Attorneys estimate there could be potentially 2,000 class members, which includes residents forced to evacuate as a result of the massive fire.

WRTV Investigates stopped by Seth Smith’s home address in Union County on April 12, but we couldn’t get far because of a no trespassing sign.
 

WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney also stopped by an attorney listed for Smith, Ronald Moore of Richmond.

Attorney Ronald Moore declined to comment.
 
WRTV Investigates reached out to both Smith and Moore on Friday about the class action lawsuit and we are still waiting to hear back.
 
In 2019, the City of Richmond conducted an inspection and found:

  • Excessive plastic materials stored in and around the buildings constituting a fire hazard
  • Substantial amounts of materials strewn about the properties such that combustible materials are located with 10 feet of a lot line
  • Insufficient means of ingress and egress due to materials stored in and near the premises, as well as combustible material being stored near exits and in enclosures for stairways or ramps
  • Insufficient fire suppression
  • Insufficient illumination of means of egress
  • Loose material blowing around the unsafe premises
  • Roof damage allowing water to infiltrate, leaning walls, decaying foundation, and masonry falling out

The city’s Unsafe Building Commission issued an order requiring the owner to remediate the properties.
Included in the city’s order to the property:

  • Repair roofs, walls and structural components to comply with city code and state laws; or remove structures
  • Remove materials to bring means of egress in compliance with city code and state law
  • Install fire suppression and fire alarms to comply with city code and state law
  • Remove materials to comply with city code and state law
  • Building needs to comply with all emergency lighting
  • Repair and activate all fire suppression and fire alarms