United Kingdom

Multi-billion pound firm supplied Grenfell Tower with flammable cladding to save money

A multi-billion pound firm which made flammable cladding for Grenfell Tower delayed approving a safer version to save money, a senior judge has said.

US construction giant Arconic supplied polyethylene panels to the west London tower block through a subsidiary company in France.

The UK inquiry into the 2017 disaster which claimed 72 lives has already ruled that this cladding was the main reason for the rapid spread of the fire.

A multi-billion pound firm which made flammable cladding for Grenfell Tower delayed approving a safer version to save money according to a senior judge

Grenfell survivors and relatives of the bereaved have launched a lawsuit against Arconic in the US because the company is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In court papers they accused the firm of putting lives at risk by supplying a product which was 'not safe for residential use'.

They claim the firm acted out of 'pure corporate greed' by 'peddling its highly flammable and dangerously defective' product, which is banned on American buildings over 40ft.

In a 100-page ruling District Judge Michael Baylson said the allegations of 'cost saving' is 'strong evidence of egregious conduct' by Arconic, which has an annual revenue of £11billion.

He said evidence showed the firm delayed approving a request for safer cladding from Arconic's French-based subsidiary AAP SAS. 

Developing a more fire-retardant version of Reynobond cladding was put off as it was seen as too expensive, the judge said.

And safer cladding was only approved 'well after' the flammable version had been supplied to Grenfell Tower.

Judge Baylson said: 'These facts may permit a finding that Arconic's conduct was so outrageous that under Pennsylvania law damages principles, punitive damages may be warranted.'

The lawsuit submitted by the survivors and the bereaved says Grenfell became a 'flaming coffin' when the fire took hold.

It says Arconic's 'desire to cut corners and save money' culminated in the 'reckless decision' to supply the cheaper cladding which cost £293,368 less than the fire-resistant version.

In legal submissions the families say: 'Arconic's corporate greed-driven actions, orchestrated from its headquarters in Pittsburgh, resulted in 72 deaths and the unimaginable physical, psychological and emotional suffering of those who escaped the fire.'

In its defence statement Arconic states that it is 'improperly named' as a defendant in the US lawsuit because subsidiary AAP SAS manufactures, tests, markets, and sells the Reynobond cladding to UK buyers.

Prior to the tragedy Arconic warned customers that its cladding presented a substantial fire risk on high-rise buildings. 

The UK inquiry into the 2017 disaster which claimed 72 lives has already ruled that this cladding was the main reason for the rapid spread of the fire (pictured)

It said in its brochure that buildings over 40ft should be fitted with an 'incombustible material'.

Despite this it supplied cladding made from thin sheets of aluminium filled with a polyethylene core, which melt at 130C, to Grenfell.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick, chairman of the inquiry, concluded in 2018 that the cladding panels were the primary cause of the spread and that they breached building regulations.

Loris Trevisan, whose daughter Gloria, 26, died with her boyfriend Marco Gottardi, 27 in the blaze, said: 'For us the cladding is the main cause of death. 

'They would still be alive today if it were not for the cladding, which was installed with the complicity of those that refurbished the building.'

Last month Judge Baylson dismissed the Grenfell lawsuit and ruled it would be more efficient if it was tried in the UK.

The victims' legal team submitted an appeal last week, claiming it will be years before they see justice if the case is not heard in the US.

Earlier this week Claire Williams, project manager of the Grenfell refurbishment, admitted 'binning' her notebooks a year after the fire despite knowing that a police investigation had been launched.

Arconic declined to comment.

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