NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — An insurance company said it should not have to pay claims or lawsuits stemming from a Christmas morning fire that killed five people in Stamford because a contractor renovating the house misrepresented the type and scope of work he did.
Utica First Insurance Co. argues in a lawsuit filed this week in New York that Michael Borcina misrepresented the number of employees with his company, Tiberias Construction, its sales and payroll, and size and type of work performed. The company says if it knew the facts, it would not have issued coverage.
Three sisters, 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace Badger, and their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, died in the fire.
The girls’ mother, Madonna Badger and Borcina escaped the blaze and survived.
Investigators determined the fire was started by improperly discarded fireplace embers. Authorities have said Borcina is believed to have placed the ashes in or outside an entryway near the trash.
The lawsuit says those who could be affected include the girls’ parents, Madonna and Matthew Badger; Madonna’s brother, Wade Johnson, and the estates of the victims. The Badgers are divorced.
“We are very disappointed that Tiberias Construction’s insurance company is trying to get out from under its legal obligations,” said David Grudberg, Borcina’s attorney.
Richard Emery, Matthew Badger’s attorney, said he has to examine the insurer’s claim.
“But at first blush it certainly seems that the insurance company is trying to wiggle out of their responsibility to compensate Borcina’s victims,” Emery said.
Emery said he was considering a lawsuit against Borcina “and a lot of other people that we believe are responsible for what occurred.”
The insurer says its rules for acceptable types of businesses and risks for which it provides insurance specifies limits on the number of employees, sales, payroll and type of work.
Matthew Badger, meanwhile, has started a project that supports underfunded elementary school arts programs in memory of his daughters.
“I had a very hard time making sense of what life was. I couldn’t stop loving my children and that love I put into the creation of the LilySarahGrace Fund,” he said Tuesday.
The website features moving tributes to each of the girls. They loved to sing and dance so money raised through the fund will go to elementary schools that introduce arts to the classroom.
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