Veranda House Guest During 2022 Fire Files Lawsuit Against Hotel Owner

JohnCarl McGrady •

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Photo by Kit Noble

A guest staying at the Veranda House the morning it burned down has joined a pair of neighbors in filing lawsuits against the hotel and its management, alleging that their negligence cost him over $12,000 in property damage, as well as an uncertain amount in emotional suffering. The guest, John Buck Jr., of Maryland, claims that he has not been compensated for the lost property and that he feared for his son's life during the fire.

“In the mad scramble, [Buck] lost contact with his adult son who was also a hotel guest,” the lawsuit reads. “[Buck] ran in and out of the hotel desperately looking for his son who he feared was trapped inside. [Buck] was unable to locate his son for a period of 10-15 minutes and stood by in horror thinking his son had been killed. Fortunately, the son had escaped through a different exit and was soon after reunited with [Buck]…[Buck] also lost significant personal property in the fire which defendants have yet to pay for now almost two years since the fire.”

The lawsuit names the Rhode Island real estate investment firm that owns the Veranda - the Procaccianti Companies - as a defendant, along with its insurance companies and two staff members.

Buck is represented by the same attorney as the neighbors and his case rests on the same claims that the hotel’s owners were negligent for not installing a sprinkler system and for hiring and poorly training Dias Omirov, a Veranda House employee who allegedly disposed of a cigarette improperly, causing the fire. Omirov is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. While the state’s final report on the fire did indicate it was caused by a discarded cigarette, the employee’s name was redacted and no criminal charges were filed.

The Veranda House did not have an interior sprinkler system at the time of the fire. When it was built, no sprinkler system was required, and the operators would only have been obligated to add one if the building underwent renovations deemed “major.” A renovation is considered major if more than 33% of the building is affected, or the total cost is more than 33% of the building’s assessed value.

The Veranda House was renovated in 2020, but Building Commissioner Paul Murphy determined the renovations did not count as major. The lawsuits filed by Buck and the neighbors disagree. If the lawsuits are correct, the Veranda House misled the town of Nantucket and skirted fire safety regulations by refusing to install a sprinkler system. Given that the fire began outside the building, however, it is unclear how much an interior sprinkler system would have mattered.

“Not sure if that would have made the difference with the fire load,” one firefighter told the Current soon after the blaze. “It moved so quickly that the system would not have had a chance. Balloon frame, massive wood porches, and covered in wood shingles. That's why most of those grand old hotels are gone.”

Both of the neighbors’ suits seek millions of dollars in damages, so Buck’s claims are marginal by comparison, but this is now the third lawsuit filed against the Veranda House.

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