Kevin and Katherine Davidson filed a $4.6 million lawsuit on May 24 against nine different parties, including the owners of the Veranda House for damages to their 4 Step Lane property and for the emotional distress last summer’s massive fire has brought to their lives ever since.
Jonathan Sweet of Keches Law is representing the couple in their lawsuit and told the Current that this is the "first of several" eventual lawsuits to come in the aftermath of the fire.
“I can say confidently that this will be the first of several suits to come from people who were impacted by this fire,” Sweet said. “I think people have gotten to wit's end. The neighbors are up in arms right now because of all the heavy equipment they have brought.”
Sweet would not go into detail about who the other suits would come from, however, he did speak about the Davidsons' suit in detail. He said that this lawsuit, at its core, is about the negligent disposal of the cigarette that caused the fire while alleging this sort of behavior was commonplace at the Veranda House.
“This case is about the negligent disposal of smoking materials by staff at the hotel. That is what caused the fire. That is what triggered the fire. That is attributed to bad smoking policies and training at the hotel,” Sweet said. “We have evidence and witnesses who are going to say that smoking and disposing of smoking materials at this place was a longstanding problem. Complaints were made to the general manager. Abutters saying ‘look, your guests are wandering around the property, they are smoking and just flicking their cigarettes. We are finding them in our bushes, and it gets dry here. You got to put out some sort of smoking area with one of those stand-up tower ashtrays.’ Their complaints were ignored. Apparently, you could just walk around smoking there, which poses a problem of safety for a hotel with no sprinkler system.”
Sweet believes that the more information that comes out about whether the Veranda House should have been required to install a sprinkler system, the more it will become clear that the renovation was more than The Procaccianti Group LLC (TPG) and 3 Step Lane LLC (3SL), the owners and operators of the hotel, led the town and the public to believe.
“This is going to come back to TPG’s purchase of the Veranda House, what was going on there, and this renovation they undertook in 2019 and 2020, and whether or not it triggered the automatic sprinkler law,” Sweet said. “Most people walk into a hotel, especially an expensive one that’s held out as a luxury one, and they probably don’t even think about it and assume there are automatic sprinklers. Most hotels have them and for good reason.”
Sweet said Kathleen was a full-time broker for William Raveis but was forced to move off island to Boston because of the destruction of her home.
“She commutes a couple days per month,” Sweet added. “She finds places to stay and is obviously well-connected. But she isn’t there full-time. Neither of them are. The really unfortunate aspect of their damages is that because this happened when it happened, if you were looking to build a house in 2022 on Nantucket you are probably looking at a three-year window because of labor issues and supply chain stuff. They had to go through permitting, the HDC, architects, and then stuff can get ordered. These are big houses.”
He said the Davidsons' aren’t on track to move back to the island full-time until June or July of 2025.
“This is all because there was no guidance on how to put out a cigarette,” Sweet said. “We are just going to have to plow through this to get to the truth.”
When Sweet addressed the sprinkler system portion of the case, he said it isn’t necessarily as much of a must-win part of the case as the negligent disposal of the cigarette, but still important.
“This sprinkler system aspect of it is an enhancer of the case,” he said. “We don’t necessarily need to win or lose on this sprinkler system issue even though it is important. But if it is true, and they should have but did not install a sprinkler system – that would entitle the Davidsons to receive double or triple damages.”
He does believe a sprinkler system would have helped minimize the damage to the Davidsons' home despite the finding that the fire began outside.
“The Veranda House probably couldn’t have been saved obviously, but my expert is going to say that an automatic sprinkler system would have suppressed the fire while it was in the Veranda House and before it spread to abutting properties,” Sweet said.
The Current has reached out to TPG seeking comment on the case but has not yet received a reply. If we receive comment, we will report it. As of the publishing of this article, none of the nine defendants in the case have any listed legal counsel representing them according to the case file.
The Current will continue to monitor this case.