Lawsuit alleges faulty building materials from 2 Pa. companies spread Grenfell fire

Steve Tawa
June 11, 2019 - 2:08 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — While the flames quickly raced up the exterior of the 24-story Grenfell Tower in June 2017, a lawsuit claims the sparks began in Pennsylvania.

Two Pennsylvania-based companies have been blamed for the deadly London fire, which killed 72 people and injured 177 others. A Philadelphia law firm recently filed a wrongful death and products liability lawsuit against them, alleging they sold defective building materials to renovate the residential building.

"The cause and origin of the deadly spread of this fire were the decisions made by Pennsylvania corporations regarding products that they now have withdrawn from the market, because of their dangerous, defective and flammable nature," said attorney Robert Mongeluzzi.

The two companies cited in the lawsuit say Pittsburgh-based Arconic supplied cladding for the tower's exterior panels, and Celotex, based in Malvern, manufactured the building's insulation.

The suit also names Whirlpool, the Michigan-based supplier of the Hotpoint refrigerator that was found to have likely started the fire on the fourth floor of Grenfell.

Mongeluzzi's colleague, attorney Jeffrey Goodman, said those materials "turned the Grenfell Tower into a cylinder of fire, which entrapped the victims."

Grenfell Tower fire
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Lawyers for the nearly 250 plaintiffs — survivors and families of victims of the fatal fire — pointed out that the type of cladding used on Grenfell's exterior is banned from use on residential high-rises taller than 40 feet in the U.S. because it is flammable. Grenfell was more than 200 feet high.

At the briefing, Cleveland attorney Mark DiCello, who, like the Mongeluzzi law firm, has also handled major personal injury cases, held up two pieces of cladding tiles.

"They look the same, they weigh the same, but one has a flame retardant mineral core," he explained. "The other has a flammable polyethylene core."

Grenfell Tower fire
Carl Court/Getty Images

When Grenfell Tower was renovated, DiCello said Arconic sold the cheaper version to the building. According to DiCello, Arconic withdrew that type of cladding from the global marketplace less than two weeks after the Grenfell fire.

Mongeluzzi said Pennsylvania law does not provide a specific amount of compensatory or punitive damages.

"That is within the jury's discretion," he noted, "using their common sense as to how they value lives and pain and suffering."

Mongeluzzi added this civil lawsuit will not affect any parallel government or criminal investigations into the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which he said run on totally different tracks.