Cornerstone Trading Group Faces Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Over Fire

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Cornerstone Trading Group Faces Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Over Fire

On a seemingly ordinary day in Richmond, Indiana, the lives of Tushawn Craig, Marquetta Stokes, and the business Limitless Pallets, LLC were forever changed. The date was April 11, 2023, when a fire broke out at a nearby plastic recycling industrial facility owned by Cornerstone Trading Group, LLC. The blaze released noxious fumes, hazardous materials, and asbestos into the surrounding area, causing significant health issues and property damage for Craig, Stokes, and Limitless Pallets, among others.

"Defendants had received an unsafe building order due to significant fire hazards at the Industrial Facility," the complaint stated. Despite this, Cornerstone Trading Group and its owner, Seth Smith, allegedly failed to remedy the unsafe conditions, leading to the catastrophic fire.

The legal theories underpinning the lawsuit are manifold, encompassing strict liability, negligence, res ipsa loquitur, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, private nuisance, trespass, battery, diminution of property, and a claim for punitive damages.

The doctrine of strict liability applies to activities that are so inherently dangerous that the person or entity undertaking them is liable for any harm caused, regardless of the level of care exercised. In this case, the plaintiffs allege that the defendants' operation of a plastic recycling facility, with its associated fire risks, constitutes such an 'ultra-hazardous' activity.

Negligence, on the other hand, involves a failure to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person would in the same circumstances. The plaintiffs contend that the defendants breached their duty of reasonable care by failing to maintain safe conditions at the facility.

Res ipsa loquitur, a Latin term meaning 'the thing speaks for itself,' is a legal doctrine that infers negligence from the very nature of the accident or injury. Here, the plaintiffs assert that the fire and its aftermath are evidence of the defendants' negligence.

The plaintiffs also accuse the defendants of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The former involves conduct so outrageous that it goes beyond all possible bounds of decency, while the latter involves a foreseeable risk to mental well-being. The complaint alleges that the defendants' disregard for safety and the subsequent fire and evacuation were extreme and outrageous, and that the defendants should have foreseen the emotional distress their actions would cause.

Private nuisance, trespass, and battery claims relate to the defendants' alleged interference with the plaintiffs' use and enjoyment of their property, unauthorized entry onto their property, and harmful or offensive contact, respectively. The plaintiffs further claim that their properties have suffered permanent economic and structural damage, or 'diminution of property.'

Finally, the plaintiffs seek punitive damages, which are intended to punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior and deter others from similar conduct. The complaint alleges that the defendants acted with malice, fraud, and oppression, warranting punitive damages.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000, interest on the damages, and costs and expenses, including attorneys' fees and expert fees.

In the wake of the fire, approximately 2,000 individuals were evacuated, and numerous businesses were forced to cease operations. The plaintiffs, along with other affected residents and businesses, have now banded together to file a class action lawsuit against Cornerstone Trading Group and Seth Smith.

The case serves as a stark reminder of the potential consequences of failing to adhere to safety regulations and the devastating impact such failures can have on individuals and communities.

Case Facts

  • Status:
    Lawsuit Filed
  • Case Number:
  • Filing Date:
    September 1, 2023
  • Jurisdiction:
    U.S. District Courts
  • State:
  • Court:
    Indiana Southern District
  • Plaintiff:
    Marquetta Stokes; Tushawn Craig
  • Defendant:
    Seth Smith; Cornerstone Trading Group, LLC
  • Plaintiff Firm:
    Trevor J. Crossen; Benjamin D. Felton
  • Defendant Firm:
  • Claims Administrator:
Jerome Andries, Esq.
Jerome Andries, Esq.
Reporter and Licensed Attorney
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