State Says Lawsuit In Mitchell Jail Fire Shouldn't Go Forward

A lawyer for the Department of Justice says the state isn't responsible for the fatal fire at the Mitchell County jail in 2002 because it's a county jail.

That argument was made to the state Supreme Court this morning during a hearing to determine whether a lawsuit filed by the families of the eight inmates killed in the fire should go forward. The state says the lawsuit shouldn't proceed.

A lawyer representing the families told the court that the lawsuit should be allowed to proceed because the state has a duty to inspect the jail for fire safety.

The families filed wrongful death claims in 2003 against the state Industrial Commission for not adequately inspecting the jail. The eight inmates died when a fire broke out in a shed attached to the jail.

The inmates died of smoke inhalation when jailers and rescuers couldn't reach them.