Former owner of Richmond plastics recycler implicates city in fire, asks to dismiss lawsuit
The city of Richmond said the original owner of a former plastics recycling business is responsible for the huge industrial fire there in April. But now the owner is blaming the city — which partially owns the property.
The fire displaced more than 1,000 people and sent harmful smoke and debris into the air. Among other things, court and city documents said plastic and trash was blocking building exits, the sprinkler system wasn't working and fire extinguishers were placed on the floor where they could be knocked over. The buildings themselves also needed several repairs.
Seth Smith and his current company Cornerstone Trading Group, LLC allege that the city of Richmond knew about unsafe conditions at the warehouse when the city bought it and assumed the risks. They also said the fire wouldn’t have started without the city’s intervention because, among other things, the power was disconnected.
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Smith and Cornerstone Trading filed a complaint against Richmond in response to a class action lawsuit brought by residents and businesses affected by the fire. Smith and Cornerstone have asked the judge to dismiss the suit against them and instead said the city should be liable for damages.
Lawyers for Smith and the company declined an interview. We couldn’t reach the city of Richmond for comment.