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Weston Firefighter Who Practices Law Wins $825K Settlement in Deadly Blaze

by Barbara Occhino

 

There is a Fireman’s Oath that reads “I serve The People, without fear, without remorse, without fail... I am bound to protect those who are in danger, those in times of need, those who I would serve… Upon my Honor as a Firefighter, this is my Creed.”

When John J. LaCava became a certified Weston volunteer firefighter in the early 90’s, he could not foresee how his service and experience would take on a personal mission for a legal battle that would last eight years. LaCava’s efforts would uncover how Bridgeport Fire Marshal office failed to conduct the required annual building fire inspections that could have prevented a tragedy.

In June 2005, Stamford attorney John LaCava took on the Thach family case in which a mother and her three children died in a fire that roared throughout their three family home.

Finally on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, the Bridgeport City Council approved an $825,000 settlement. Had the case gone to trial, it would have likely dredged up the embarrassing results of a 2007 probe of the Bridgeport Fire Marshal's Office. In 2008, six city fire inspectors were terminated after an internal investigation using GPS units hidden in their vehicles determined the inspectors were not where they were required to be during working hours. 

“The lawsuit filed against the city of Bridgeport’s Fire Marshal's Office claimed that the office failed to conduct the required annual safety inspections of buildings with three or more units, and never even inspected the family's address,” explains Attorney LaCava. 

After the fire, the fire marshal found that the apartment contained no working smoke detectors, had anti-theft bars installed inside of the windows, and had a glass pane door leading to the front stairway nailed shut from the inside and blocked by a heavy dresser. An investigation by police and fire officials resulted in the arrest of Hai Pham, 37, the building’s owner. She received a suspended three-year prison sentence in April 2006, after pleading guilty to three counts of negligent homicide.

The Thach family arrived from Vietnam on March 14, 2002, and settled at the multi-family dwelling at 1647-1649 Iranistan Avenue in Bridgeport. The then 37-year old father, Rinh Thach, worked as a generator assembler at the Fermont Corp. and installed vinyl siding to make some extra money on the side. His 35-year-old wife, Luong, was the daughter of a Vietnamese woman and an U.S. soldier. Luong and her three children, 14-year-old son, Hoang Anh; 11-year-old daughter, Thi My Trinh; and 3-year-old daughter, Daisy, would be the victims of a fire that killed all but Rinh. The fire engulfed the home at about 4:30 a.m. in or near a kitchen on the second floor of the home.

Witnesses say the father, Rinh Thach, managed to escape but tried to run back into the burning building several times to save his family, only be driven back by the intense heat and flames. In the days following the fire, the greater Bridgeport community opened their hearts and their wallets to the fire victims left homeless. Then-U.S. Rep. Chris Shays helped bring Thach's mother, Hen Thi Thach, from Vietnam to spend nearly six months nursing her son back to health before returning to her homeland.

Attorney LaCava’s success with the Thach case was supported by his over 25 years experience in personal injury and civil litigation, including both judge and jury trials (Federal and State courts), appeals, arbitrations and mediations. His law offices in Stamford, Bridgeport, and Norwalk specialize in personal injury, medical-related injuries, motor vehicle accidents, worker's compensation, premises liability, and immigration law. LaCava is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for verdict/settlement in excess of one million dollars. LaCava is longtime board member (and past president) of the International Institute of Connecticut, Inc. a non-profit agency involved in immigration assistance and refugee resettlement. He is an active member of the Weston Volunteer Fire Department and is a state certified firefighter (Firefighter I). He is married and has two children.

Information for the public is available online at InfoLaw.com with articles published by Attorney LaCava on how insurance companies settle cases, how injured individuals can get proper treatment, workers’ compensation, tips on what to do after auto accidents, and related topics.

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