Passa v. Derderian
United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island
308 F. Supp. 2d 43 (D.R.I. 2004)
A fire broke out at a Rhode Island nightclub owned by Derderian (defendant) when band members ignited pyrotechnics onstage. The fire killed 100 people and injured about 200 others, including Passa (plaintiff). Victims of the fire filed tort claims in state and federal courts against a multitude of defendants, including Derderian, the band members, the band’s manager, and many others. The federal court’s jurisdiction to hear five of these cases, including Passa’s case against Derderian, was called into question. Several parties in these cases opposed the federal court asserting jurisdiction and moved to dismiss and/or remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that original federal jurisdiction was proper in these cases based on the Multiparty, Multiforum, Trial Jurisdiction Act of 2002 (MMTJA), which gives federal courts broader jurisdiction over cases stemming from a disaster that kills over 75 people The court held that the exception within the MMTJA requiring a federal court to abstain did not apply in these cases. The motions to dismiss or remand these cases were denied because the federal court had original jurisdiction under the MMTJA to hear these cases.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Lagueux, J.)