Fire and Explosion


A devastating fire, explosion, or other catastrophic loss presents complex issues requiring immediate and effective handling. If the event results in significant property damage, business loss, injuries, or fatalities, Robinson+Cole's fire and explosion lawyers can quickly be on scene, ready to lead the investigation and minimize any adverse effects to our client.

The rules regarding spoliation of evidence are changing rapidly. Manufacturers accustomed to receiving notice of product liability claims months or years after the loss occurred are now being invited to examine the incident scene within days or weeks. Most manufacturers take advantage of the opportunity and participate to some extent in the scene investigation but do not fully investigate the loss.

Investigating a loss caused by a fire or explosion involves more than sending a specialist or engineer familiar with a product to the loss site. A proper fire or explosion investigation requires determination of  these factors:

  • the source of ignition or detonation
  • the first fuel ignited
  • the circumstances that brought the ignition source in contact with the first fuel
  • why the fire was not suppressed or controlled by the fire suppression system
  • what factors allowed the fire to spread beyond the area of origin

Our Services

Our Fire and Explosion Group is highly experienced in leading investigations. We provide immediate response to a catastrophic event by assembling a team of investigative experts who go on scene to preserve evidence, interview witnesses, and document information from appropriate authorities. Although a product might not function as designed, a proper investigation may show that its failure to perform as designed is not the cause of the loss. For example, the fire might have started in a product, but an investigation may reveal that the product was altered after it left the factory. Or, an investigation may show that a fire suppression system designed to protect a particular area, although it did not function properly, did not contribute to the loss because the fire started outside of the protected area.

Our Team

Robinson+Cole's Fire and Explosion Group has the national experience to help companies minimize liability claims and the business impact of a catastrophic fire loss. Our lawyers work with a nationwide network of top forensic professionals who can promptly respond to a loss site anywhere in the U.S. Together, we approach the following tasks head on:

  • investigating fully the root cause of the loss
  • analyzing the potential liability
  • when appropriate, helping adverse parties identify the persons or entities legally responsible for the incident and damage

A thorough early investigation can help avoid most litigation and may save significant expenses in the long run. Additionally, we regularly communicate with governmental agencies and guide our clients through the legal ramifications resulting from a governmental investigation, including the following:

  • OSHA
  • EPA
  • ATF
  • state and local fire marshals

Members of Robinson+Cole’s Fire and Explosion Group regularly present on fire and explosion topics throughout the country. We have a strong connection with the fire science community and are actively involved in many fire organizations, including the following:

  • the National Fire Protection Association’s 921 Technical Committee, where we helped write the book on the industry standard, NFPA 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations
  • the National Association of Fire Investigators
  • the International Association of Arson Investigators, as well as some of its local chapters
  • the International Fire Service Training Association and the committee that authored Introduction to Fire Origin and Cause (3rd ed.)
  • the International Association of Fire Investigators’ Attorney Advisory Committee
    • Experience
      • Represented a university in the investigation of a dormitory fire to determine the cause of fire and to make recommendations to prevent a reoccurrence.

      • Represented a commercial property insurer in litigation involving a $100 million property insurance claim by a publicly traded company for claimed losses arising from an arson fire and in related bankruptcy, criminal, and civil enforcement actions.

      • Represented a manufacturer in the explosion of the world's largest hot isostatic press, with over $40 million in property damage.

      • Represented an insurer in a claim for loss of commercial property and contents due to fire, including coordinating the restoration of a security system that recorded the arsonist setting fire, responding to state and local prosecutors, and preparing witnesses to testify in response to grand jury subpoenas. 

      • Represented a manufacturer whose product allegedly caused a fire at a Nevada casino that resulted in over $25 million in property damage.

      • Conducted over 100 on-site restaurant fire investigations for a leading manufacturer of commercial restaurant equipment, preventing litigation in over 90 percent of matters.

      • Represented a European hotel conglomerate and its insurer in litigation arising out of a major hotel fire in Rome, Italy, which resulted in multiple fatalities and $50 million in property damage.

      • Represented the owner of a Rhode Island wire mill facility in pursuing a $75 million claim against a utility company resulting from a high voltage electrical fire.

      • Represented a real property owner in New York City in connection with a fire that caused three buildings to collapse and resulted in over $20 million in property damage and personal injuries

      • Represented an HVAC contractor in defense of various matters involving building and fire code violations, including an alleged defective sprinkler system that caused $3 million in property damage.

      • Represented a manufacturer in a yacht fire that caused over $10 million in property damage to the Miami Beach Marina and vessels in the marina.

      • Represented an international pharmaceutical company in initial response to, and long-term strategy associated with, a chemical explosion that resulted in personal injuries, significant property damage, and regulatory issues.

      • Represented a Fortune 50 company in connection with a chemical explosion at a facility, resulting in a fatality and tens of millions of dollars in property damage.

      • Represented the London market in connection with an explosion at a Texas power plant, resulting in over $30 million in property damage.

      • Represented a Fortune 10 manufacturer in the largest fire to occur in New Hampshire in 40 years, with millions of dollars in property damage.

      • Represented the insurer of a racing yacht that was destroyed in a fire off the coast of Antigua.

      • Represented a real estate owner against a contractor who caused a fire resulting in over $50 million in damages. The fire destroyed many unique and invaluable pieces of artwork, requiring our team to not only prove liability but also substantiate damages for many items that were difficult to value.

      • Represented various insurers in the ConEd steam explosion cases that caused tens of millions of dollars in damages.

      • Represented an insurer in an investigation and related litigation of a fire claimed to have caused over $10 million in property damage resulting from an illegal butane hash oil manufacturing operation.

      • Represented various insurers in investigations and coordination with prosecutors regarding grand jury investigations, sentencing, and significant restitution recoveries.

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    • News
      • March 24, 2017

        Insurance + Reinsurance Group Lawyers Present at 39th Annual Arson Seminar

        • » more info
      • August 12, 2011

        Rebecca Levy-Sachs Elected a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation

        • » more info
      • August 12, 2010

        Providence Business News Names Dana Horton As “40 Under Forty” Recipient

        • » more info
        • View article
      • July 27, 2010

        Two Robinson & Cole Attorneys Named to Hartford Business Journal’s “40 Under Forty”

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        • View article
    • Publications + Presentations
    • "Deposition and Trial Training for Public and Private Fire Investigators," conducted sessions at International Association of Arson Investigators training in Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island

      "Cross Examination of Experts," at the Connecticut Fire Academy's Annual Advanced Fire Training Session
      • » more info

      "Incorporating New Development Relating to NFPA 921 and 1033 into Your Litigation Strategy," at the Fire and Casualty Claims and Litigation Conference, American Conference Institute

      "Critical Developments in Fire Scene Investigations," for the New England Claim Executives Association

      "Selecting & Utilizing Fire Experts," at National Association of Fire Investigators Fire Litigation Skills Conference, Sarasota, Florida

      "NFPA 1033: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigators," for the National Association of Subrogation Professionals

      "Rating Your Fire Expert," for the National Association of Subrogation Professionals

      "Admissibility of Fire Investigators' Testimony," for the New England Claim Executives Association

      "Supervising the Arson Case," at Travelers Insurance Claim University, Windsor, Connecticut

      "Preservation of Fire Scenes/Evidence," at The Hartford Insurance Company

      "Spontaneous Combustion Losses," for the National Association of Subrogation Professionals

      "Daubert Standards for Expert Witness Testimony: Effective Strategies for Bringing and Defending Daubert Challenges," presented through Strafford Webinar Publications, Hartford, Connecticut

      "Preparing for and Providing Testimony in a Fire Case," at the Florida Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention 39th Annual Seminar, Florida State Fire College, Ocala, Florida
      • » more info

      "Product Defects and Recalls and Their Impact on the Claims Process," at the Fire and Casualty Claims and Litigation Conference, American Conference Institute

      "Maximizing Subrogation Recovery," at Travelers Property Casualty Corp.

Our Team