Foss: Settlement in Jay Street fire inadequate

100-104 Jay Street at 3:10 a.m, just past the 1-hour mark into the fire, Friday, March 6, 2015.
100-104 Jay Street at 3:10 a.m, just past the 1-hour mark into the fire, Friday, March 6, 2015.

One million dollars, split among 13 plaintiffs? 

It’s not nothing. 

But it’s not enough, either. 

Not nearly enough. 

Of course, no amount of money could ever truly compensate the victims and surviving family members for the losses they suffered in the fatal Jay Street fire. 

There’s no amount of money that can bring the people who died in the blaze back to life, or erase the trauma that those who survived the fire must have experienced as they watched their homes burn to the ground. 

But still. 

The settlement reached this week between the 13 plaintiffs and property owner Ted Gounaris, Inc. is nowhere near sufficient, given the enormity of the disaster that unfolded on the bitterly cold morning of March 6, 2015. 

The plaintiffs will split up $1 million in insurance money. If they divvy it up evenly, each one stands to receive $76,923, although it’s worth noting that that figure doesn’t include legal fees, and the payouts will likely be lower. 

This is the second time this month we’ve learned that victims of a horrible tragedy will receive woefully inadequate payouts.  

I’m referring, of course, to the revelation that the survivors of the Schoharie County limousine crash are entitled to a mere $25,000 apiece from the insurance company that covered the company whose vehicle was involved in the crash. 

The reason for these pitifully small amounts is simple: The company’s $500,000 insurance policy must be divided among 20 survivors. Similarly, the $1 million settlement for the Jay Street fire survivors is the full limit of the liability insurance policy carried by Ted Gounaris Inc. 

It’s amazing that a state with so many rules and regulations doesn’t do more to ensure that companies involved in terrible tragedies must provide individual victims with compensation that reflects that devastation that occurred on their watch. 

Dozens of people lived in the 20 apartment units at 104 Jay Street, the building owned by Ted Gounaris Inc. 

A $1 million policy might be enough for a single-family home or duplex, but a large apartment building with lots of tenants is different — it houses more people, which makes the risk of calamity much greater. 

Let’s not forget: Sixty people were displaced by the fire that consumed 100 and 104 Jay Street, seven people were injured and four people were killed. 

A building with that many tenants makes a lot of money off the people who live there — the least the property owner can do is be prepared to pay up when disaster occurs. 

There’s no amount of money that can ever truly compensate the victims and surviving family members of the Jay Street fire. 

But that doesn’t mean we should accept the settlement they’ve received as adequate. 

Because it isn’t adequate. 

They deserve more, and Ted Gounaris Inc., deserves to be shamed for failing to provide it. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.    

Categories: News, Opinion

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