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Los Angeles Sues Developer after Fire

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

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The City of Los Angeles has filed a $20 million negligence lawsuit against the developer of a seven-story apartment under construction that was destroyed in a massive blaze on Dec. 8, 2014.

Officials have said the downtown fire—believed to have been started by an accelerant—was one of the largest structure fires in the city’s history, costing nearly $100 million in damage.

Fire
Images: Los Angeles Fire Department

The Dec. 8, 2014, fire was one of the largest structure fires in the city's history, according to officials. The intense blaze caused damage to city properties nearby.

In addition to destroying the 75,000-square-foot building, the fire reportedly damaged nearby city-owned and leased buildings and temporarily closed a major freeway. No injuries were reported.

The City’s Allegations

The lawsuit, filed Thursday (Feb. 18), by city attorney Mike Feuer, alleges real estate developer Geoffrey H. Palmer and his company GH Palmer Associates, based in Beverly Hills, CA, created a fire hazard at the Da Vinci complex by failing to properly maintain, construct and manage the property according to code.

“We're fighting to fully compensate the City's taxpayers for losses we allege could have been avoided had this massive building incorporated key safety measures and been better constructed," Feuer said in a statement.

The controversial project had been in the wood-framing stage when the fire was started.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims the developer used “improper and defective construction methods” including failing to have an appropriate fire protection plan, failing to compartmentalize construction, failing to properly install fire walls or doors, and failing to have an appropriate water supply for fire suppression.

LA Fire

The building had been in the wood-framing stage when it was destroyed.

The developer also failed to provide security measures that would prevent intrusion by unwanted individuals, according to the lawsuit.

GH Palmer Associates did not immediately respond Monday (Feb. 22) to a request for comment.

City's Bill: $80M

Damage to the city-owned buildings allegedly included 160 cracked windows at the headquarters of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Moreover, officials said the city properties incurred extensive water damage due to fire sprinkler activation and firefighting activities needed to prevent the fire from spreading.

Those damages have reportedly cost the city $80 million, with insurance covering $61.9 million, officials said.

Arson Charges

Meanwhile, the man charged in the arson case, Dawud Abdulwali, a 56-year-old taxi driver, is awaiting trial. His next court date is March 16—to set a date for a preliminary hearing, according to Jane Robison, a spokeswoman at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Abdulwali pleaded not guilty May 2015 to two counts of arson. Authorities have not revealed details regarding a possible motive, but they allege Abdulwali used an accelerant to start the fire on the building’s fourth floor.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years to life in state prison.

Reports note Abdulwali does not appear to be connected to the developer or the apartment complex.

   

Tagged categories: Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Developers; Fire; Fireproofing; Fire-resistive coatings; Government; Lawsuits; Wood

Comment from Eric Murrell, (2/23/2016, 8:34 AM)

An interesting precedent. Will all fires now be subject to investigation and potential damage claims from the municipalities that put them out


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (2/24/2016, 9:02 AM)

Eric - Of course not. This particular fire damaged city property to the tune of $80,000,000.


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