Around 800 survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster, victims’ families and 102 firefighters have launched a High Court case seeking tens of millions of pounds in compensation.
Lawyers filed civil claims against US firm Arconic behind the flammable cladding, main contractor Rydon and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, landlord of the 24-storey north-west London council block.
The organisations were involved in the disastrous refurbishment before a fatal fire killed 72 and left hundreds homeless in June 2017.
In an interim hearing to be heard by Senior Master Barbara Fontaine on Wednesday, the bereaved and survivors will allege 23 defendants “separately and cumulatively led to or contributed to the disaster”.
The firefighters, some claiming they’ve been unable to work again due to trauma, are seeking damages for personal injury and loss caused by the “negligence and/or breach of statutory duty”.
The Guardian reported it is the first time Arconic, insulation manufacturers Celotex and Kingspan, cladding contractor Harley Facades and other consultants have faced court action in the UK over the deaths.
Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation, responsible under the law for fire safety, is also being sued.
Nabil Choucair, who lost who lost six relatives in the blaze, said: “They have had it coming and it is long overdue.
“It’s been four years and nothing has been done. I only wish it was sooner.”
Mr Choucair stressed the case was not about money.
They want the limited accountability offered by civil law amid widespread frustration at the slow pace of justice.
The Metropolitan Police’s investigation into possible corporate manslaughter is not expected to make a charging decision until after the public inquiry publishes its final report at the end of 2022.
The hearing has already heard that senior Arconic staff warned internally that the polyethylene core cladding it was selling was “dangerous” two years before the fire.
Maketing manager Gerard Sonntag said in a meeting a colleague asked what the “responsibility” of a supplier would be if “60 to 70” people died in a building coated in polyethylene cored aluminium composite material.
Thirty-one police officers who attended the blaze and worked inside the charred building subsequently are also claiming damages for psychiatric injuries.
Vincent Reynolds, a lawyer for the firefighters at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Despite it now being over four years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the inquiry detailing multiple failures on the part of all the parties involved in the refurbishment of the tower, no defendant has yet admitted liability and our fight continues.”
A Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea spokesman said it was participating fully in the case “no matter what the outcome means for us”.
The borough added it was in discussions to “design an alternative dispute resolution process” being steered by retired appeal court judge Sir Stephen Irwin.
Arconic said it was “fully participating” in the high court process. The newspaper said Celotex, Kingspan and Rydon declined to comment.