A US court has rejected a lawsuit brought by survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire against several of the corporations involved in the fire, ruling that it should be heard in the UK, Inside Housing understands.
Grenfell survivors and bereaved last summer brought the case for civil damages against Arconic and Saint Gobain, the companies responsible for the cladding and insulation respectively, and Whirlpool, which supplied the fridge that caught fire.
But multiple sources familiar with the case told Inside Housing that the court yesterday rejected the case against Arconic and Whirlpool on the basis of “forum” following a hearing last month. The court is understood to have ruled the case should be heard in the UK.
The case against Saint Gobain, the parent company of UK-based insulation supplier Celotex, was dropped in May.
A judgement against the companies in the US could have resulted in damages running to tens of millions of dollars, and the rejection of the lawsuit will come as a blow to the survivors, who must now wait for the conclusion of the lengthy public inquiry to pursue actions in the UK.
However, it is understood that the court did leave open the possibility of consideration of liability under US law and an assessment of appropriate damages. The judgement has not yet been made public.
Pennsylvania was selected as the venue for the wrongful death lawsuit because it is the home of the head offices of both Arconic and Saint Gobain.
The case progressed through document disclosure last autumn, with Arconic challenged over its attempt to use French laws to prevent the release of documents to the court.
The panels installed on Grenfell Tower were sold by Arconic Architectural Products SAS – the French arm of the company.
The fire at Grenfell Tower killed 72 people in June 2017 after a fire broke out in a fourth-floor kitchen, travelled through a window and ignited the cladding system that had been installed on the tower’s external walls in a refurbishment completed in 2016.
In his judgement on the first phase of the public inquiry last year, inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick ruled that the aluminium composite material panels were the “primary cause” of this fire spread, adding that it was “more likely than not” that the combustible Celotex insulation also contributed.
The second phase of the inquiry is ongoing, and is currently hearing evidence from the companies directly involved in the refurbishment.
Witnesses from Arconic and Celotex will be called to give evidence in its second module, which will examine how the products were tested, marketed and sold.
A spokesperson for Arconic said: “The US Court has determined that the UK, and not the US, is the appropriate place for plaintiffs to bring their case relating to the Grenfell Tower fire. We express our deepest sympathy to anyone affected by the tragedy and continue to offer our full support to the authorities as the UK inquiry and Metropolitan Police investigation continue.”
Update at 3.45pm:
This story was updated to make it clear that the case against Saint Gobain was dropped in May.
Week one: A vivid picture of a broken industry
After a week of damning revelations at the opening of phase two of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Peter Apps recaps the key points
Week two: What is the significance of the immunity application?
Sir Martin Moore-Bick has written to the attorney general requesting protection for those set to give evidence at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Peter Apps explains what the move means
Week three: Architects of misfortune
This week saw the lead architects for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment give evidence to the inquiry. Peter Apps runs through the key points
Week four: ‘I didn’t have any perception that it was the monster it’s become’
The architects continued to give evidence this week, outlining a lack of understanding of the fire risk posed by the cladding materials and its design. Nathaniel Barker reports
Week five: ‘No adverse effect in relation to external fire spread’
As the Grenfell Tower Inquiry returns from its long absence, Peter Apps recaps the key points from a week of important evidence from the fire consultants to the refurbishment
Week six: ‘I can’t recall any instance where I discussed the materials with building control’
Nathaniel Barker summarises what we learned from fire engineers Exova, architects Studio E and the early evidence from contractor Rydon
Week seven: ‘I do not think I have ever worked with a contractor operating with this level of nonchalance’
Two key witnesses from contractor Rydon gave evidence this week. Peter Apps recaps some of the key points from a revealing week of evidence
Week eight: ‘It haunts me that it wasn't challenged’
Four witnesses from contractor Rydon gave evidence this week. Lucie Heath recaps what we learned on the last week of evidence before the inquiry breaks for five weeks
Week nine: ‘All I can say is you will be taken out for a very nice meal very soon’
This week the inquiry heard evidence from witnesses at Harley Facades, the sub-contractor responsible for Grenfell Tower’s cladding. Peter Apps recaps the key points
Week 10: ‘As we all know, ACM will be gone rather quickly in a fire!’
As the Grenfell Tower Inquiry entered its 10th week, Jack Simpson recaps the key points from a week of important evidence from the refurbishment’s cladding contractor
Week 11: ‘Did you get the impression Grenfell Tower was a guinea pig for this insulation?’
With witnesses from the cladding subcontractor, the firm which cut the deadly panels to shape and the clerk of works which inspected the job giving evidence this was week full of revelations. Peter Apps recaps the key points
Week 12: ‘Would you accept that was a serious failing on your part?’
With the surveyor who inspected Grenfell Tower for compliance giving evidence, this was a crucial week from the inquiry. Dominic Brady and Peter Apps report
Week 13: ‘Value for money is to be regarded as the key driver for this project’
With consultants to Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) giving evidence, attention at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry turned for this first time to the actions of the TMO and the council. Peter Apps reports
Week 14: ‘Did it not occur to you at this point that your budget was simply too low?’
This week, for the first time in phase two, the inquiry heard from Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the landlord that oversaw the fatal refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. Lucie Heath reports
Week 15: ‘Have you ever informed the police that you destroyed documents relevant to their investigation?’
Witnesses from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) gave evidence for a second week, which began with a shocking revelation about withheld and destroyed evidence. Pete Apps recaps
Week 16: ‘I conclude this was very serious evidence of professional negligence’
This week saw members of Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation finish giving evidence, before the inquiry’s expert witnesses took the stand to make some highly critical assessments of the work they had seen before and during the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. Jack Simpson recaps
Grenfell Tower: a timeline of the refurbishment
Following the conclusion of module one of the Grenfell Inquiry’s second phase, Peter Apps presents a timeline of the key moments during the fatal refurbishment of the west London tower block.
Week 17: ‘It’s hard to make a note about this because we are not clean’
The start of the second module of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase two came with some huge revelations about the companies that sold the products used in the cladding system. Peter Apps reports
Week 18: ‘It was just reckless optimism wasn't it?’
As the inquiry began cross-examining witnesses for the second module of its phase two work, the picture surrounding just how Grenfell Tower ended up wrapped in such dangerous materials became a little clearer. Nathaniel Barker was keeping an eye on proceedings
Week 19: ‘And that was intentional, deliberate, dishonest?’
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry this week heard the shocking story of how the insulation manufacturer "manipulated" official testing and marketed its product "dishonestly". Peter Apps tells the story
Week 20: ‘We were outed by a consultant who we then had to fabricate a story to’
This week the inquiry investigated the actions of Kingspan – the manufacturer of one of the insulation products used in the tower’s cladding system. Dominic Brady reports
Week 21: 'It's there in black and white isn't it? We see a complete absence of any consideration of life safety'
The story of insulation giant Kingspan’s testing and marketing of its combustible insulation for high rises was unpacked in minute detail this week. Peter Apps reports
Week 22: 'All we do is lie in here'
In the third week of evidence from insulation giant Kingspan, the inquiry continued to uncover shocking details about the firm’s behaviour both before and after the Grenfell Tower fire. Lucie Heath reports.
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