Grenfell Tower fire: over 900 bereaved families, survivors and local residents reach settlement in civil case
Survivors, families of the victims, and local residents will receive damages relating to the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, which took place in June 2017.
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Hundreds of bereaved family members, survivors, and local residents whose lives were devastated by the tragedy at Grenfell Tower have agreed on a settlement of their civil claims arising from the fire.
The blaze at the tower block in west London tragically killed 72 people in June 2017. It also rendered former residents homeless, with all of their possessions destroyed - and both physically and mentally injured the survivors, many of whom endured a terrifying escape from the 24-storey building.
Inspections of the building later found that the fire had spread so rapidly due to the cladding being made from highly flammable material. Therefore, more than 900 claimants brought action against the various civil and corporate bodies involved in previous refurbishments of Grenfell Tower - requesting civil damages.
A spokesperson for the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the company appointed by the local council to run the community’s housing, said that “a monetary settlement won’t mitigate for the loss and trauma” suffered by those involved in the tragedy - but welcomed the agreement as a step towards justice.
Lawyers who represented the claimants have stressed that the settlement will not affect the potential for any criminal charges to be brought in the future, and is also entirely separate from the long-running inquiry into the fire. Chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the Grenfell Inquiry is examining the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the tragedy - with a report due to be published later this year.
In a statement, the firms who took part in the legal claim said: “The settlement is completely independent of, and has no impact upon, the ongoing Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower Fire, or the ongoing criminal investigation where it is anticipated that the Crown Prosecution Service will make a decision on whether to pursue criminal charges against those responsible for the fire after publication of the final report on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
“In those respects, the BSRs’ [bereaved family members, survivors and local residents] fight for justice continues. Finally, it should be recognised that no amount of damages could ever be sufficient to properly compensate those affected by the fire.”
The civil agreement does not include all victims of the fire. The amount of compensation the claimants are to receive will also differ according to their lawyers, set to be shared out “according to their own specific circumstances“.
Arconic, the cladding giant which made combustible cladding that helped spread the fire at Grenfell Tower, confirmed that it was among the firms that involved in the high court case and had agreed to the settlement. The company said it had also “agreed to contribute to a restorative justice project to benefit the community affected by the fire”.
A spokesperson commented: “Arconic continues to express its deepest sympathy to the Grenfell residents and their families, and appreciates the importance of this milestone for providing a resolution that lessens the delay and stress to claimants that would result from protracted legal proceedings.”
The company previously tried to argue that more heat had been released by the burning contents of victims’ flats than the cladding it had made, during its closing statement to the Grenfell Inquiry.
A spokesperson for Rydon, the firm involved in a cost-cutting process which selected the cheapest available cladding material, added: “Rydon, along with other companies and public sector bodies, has participated in an alternative dispute resolution process which related to a large number of civil claims brought by bereaved, survivors, and local residents of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
“Following productive and co-operative engagement between the parties, settlement terms have been agreed with the vast majority of those affected without the need for a prolonged legal process. Rydon continues to express its deepest sympathy to the Grenfell residents and their families.”
Richard Millett KC, counsel to the Grenfell Inquiry, has previously attacked the companies involved in the fire for spinning a “web of blame” and continuing to deny responsibility, despite evidence of “incompetence,” “malpractice”, and “dishonesty”.
During a presentation at the inquiry, Mr Millett displayed a web diagram on screens which showed the dozens of occasions on which the companies, professionals, and public authorities who facilitated the dangerous cladding had blamed one another. This, he argued, was proof them partaking in a “merry-go-round of buck-passing”.
He also concluded after 400 days of evidence that no one should have died in the disaster on 14 June 2017 - as the “risks were well known by many”, meaning the tragic loss of lives was “avoidable”.