Case Against Landlord In Fatal Fire Is Settled With 'Frustrating,' 'Wholly Inadequate' Amount

May 10, 2018

The families of six people killed in a 2014 apartment fire in Portland have reached a settlement agreement with the landlord of the property.

The agreement ends the civil case against landlord Gregory Nisbet, but attorneys for some of the families say the amount of the settlement is disappointing.

The $300,000 settlement is the value pegged to landlord Gregory Nisbet's fire insurance policy. Attorney Brad Pattershall, who represented the estate of one of the fire victims, says the plaintiffs agreed to it after making sure Nisbet had no other assets.

"It's small. It's – $300,000 for one of the claims would be inadequate, so for six deceased 20-something-year-olds to each get $45,000 – for the estate to get $45,000 – is – it's frustrating, and I think everybody's extremely disappointed. But I think that's the reality of the situation," Nisbet said.

There are seven plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including one survivor of the fire who will receive $30,000. The estates of the other six will divide the rest.

Lead plaintiff Ashley Summers lost her husband, 29-year-old Stephen Smith. After paying legal fees, Summers will receive about $13,000. The couples' two children will each receive half that amount, placed in trusts.

Summers' attorney, Tom Hallett, called the settlement amount "wholly inadequate" in court filings.

The fire erupted in the early morning hours of November 1, 2014, after an improperly used ashtray ignited a porch and quickly spread to the rest of the house.

Greg Nisbet was acquitted of manslaughter in a criminal case, but was sentenced to 90 days in jail for a fire code violation because third floor bedrooms lacked secondary exits.

Nisbet is appealing that decision. The Maine Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on that case next week.