CCRC didn't enforce no-smoking policy, so four died in fire, lawsuit says

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This photo of Delores and Thomas Parker was included in the lawsuit filed Tuesday by their daughter, Kathryn McGill.
This photo of Delores and Thomas Parker was included in the lawsuit filed Tuesday by their daughter, Kathryn McGill.

The daughter of a husband and wife who died in the five-alarm fire at Barclay Friends in November filed a civil lawsuit against the West Chester, PA, continuing care retirement community on Tuesday, claiming that her parents might still be alive if the facility's no-smoking policy had been enforced.

The daughter, Kathryn McGill, is seeking more than $400,000.

The late Thomas and Delores Parker, aged 92 and 89, respectively, had dementia and lived in the complex's Woolman Building, which housed residents with personal care and memory care needs. The other two residents who died, Mildred Gadde, 93, and Theresa Malloy, 85, lived in that building, also. Barclay Friends demolished the building earlier this year and plans to start construction on a replacement next year.

McGill's eight-count, 48-page complaint brings claims of negligence and reckless and outrageous conduct against defendants Barclay Friends and parent Kendal Corp. as well as architectural firm C. Raymond David & Sons; Daniel H. Socket, Structural Engineers; Johnson Controls Fire Protection; Marco Protection Systems; Kohn Engineering; Aqua Pennsylvania; and Aqua America.

Barclay Friends had a long-standing no-smoking policy due in part to the fact that some residents were on supplemental oxygen therapy, the lawsuit states. The policy was posted, and “no smoking” signs were hung throughout the community, but Barclay Friends did not enforce the policy,  the complaint alleges.

“The fire originated on the rear outdoor patio when an employee, in violation of policy, carelessly discarded a lit cigarette into a trashcan containing combustible materials that was in close proximity to the building's exterior wall,” the lawsuit states.

An inspection after the fire found “used cigarette butts littering the property,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Parkers had “terrifying, gruesome, agonizing and lonely deaths” because they were not evacuated, that firefighters did not have sufficient water pressure at the scene, that the building's sprinkler system wasn't properly designed, that the main valve in the community's sprinkler system had been shut off at the time of the fire, that the building's alarms were not loud enough, and that an improperly built wall allowed the fire to spread because it lacked the fire-retardant material specified in architectural drawings for the building.

McGill is seeking a minimum of $50,000 for each of the eight counts.

A spokeswoman for Barclay Friends told the Courthouse News Service that the company continues to cooperate with federal, state and local investigators.

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