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The Dusseldorf Rhein-Rhur airport and its six insurers have agreed to a settlement of 245 million DM ($142.5 million) for coverage of property damages resulting from a spring 1996 fire.
A spokesman for the insurance consortium led by Dusseldorf-based Provinzial Versicherungs A.G. said "duty violations" by the airport were the chief reason the settlement was negotiated down from the initial claim of 350 million DM ($203.6 million).
An investigation by a state commission concluded that sparks from welders ignited a power line and insulation in the building (BI, June 10, 1996). The commission found that the airport did not adhere to fire protection regulations when the building was constructed.
Several insurers representing tenants at the airport are seeking several million deutsche marks in damages from the airport. Iduna Allgemeine A.G., Deutscher Lloyd A.G., Securitas Bremer Allgemeine A.G. and Neckura A.G. are among more than a dozen companies that have sued the airport for gross negligence.
The suit is based on allegations that the airport failed to have proper fire protection. Airport management is accused of not acting on knowledge of flammable insulation in the ceiling, which contributed to the fire. The suit is scheduled to be heard in state court on July 17.
In the meantime, the commission concluded the same thing could occur in other German airports and public buildings. The state commission found that non-adherence to fire codes in constructing these buildings is widespread. An investigation at other German airports found smoke indicators often were missing in the air ducts and flammable insulating material was used around cables in the air ducts, two of the factors contributing to the spread of the Dusseldorf fire.
Total property damage at the Dusseldorf airport is estimated at 485 million DM ($282.1 million). Besides 245 million DM in property damage, insurers will pay liability claims amounting to 20 million DM ($11.6 million) for 17 people who died in the blaze. Liability claims are insured by a consortium of insurers, called Luftpool.