“Ghost Ship” Oakland Warehouse Fire Haunts Survivors

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Q: Who is responsible for injuries and death in a building fire?

They never had a chance.

The three dozen young artists and friends who perished at a party in an Oakland warehouse fire in early December were only one block away from the firehouse. But the company’s impressive three-minute response time wasn’t fast enough to save them from catastrophic injuries in the “death trap” known as the “Ghost Ship” – the name given to the warehouse that was converted to an artistic colony.

Reportedly, there were multiple complaints of building violations filed with the city of Oakland with respect to the Ghost Ship warehouse which has been described as “uninhabitable”, not up to code, and not intended for residential occupancy. Descriptions of allegedly makeshift, wobbly, wooden pallet staircases, cluttered piles of the residents’ artistic creations and supplies, few exits in the gigantic, multi-story warehouse– and no sprinkler system– paint a picture of the disaster that ultimately came to be.

Despite the building reportedly not being habitable or zoned for residential use, many local artists unable to afford legal apartments in pricey Oakland, paid rent to live and work in the artsy studio space within the Ghost Ship. One tenant who escaped the fire said he paid $750 rent per month to live there. All property and possessions were destroyed with the charred building.

The three dozen people who perished may have left behind parents, children, and spouses. Many victims frantically texted their loved ones after the fire broke out sending farewell “I love you” and “I’m going to die” messages.

While investigations continue as to the cause of the fire, “Who knew what– and when?” is the overriding question. Survivors of the victims, as well as tenants who escaped the fire are grieving and facing potential financial burdens as a result of their losses.

When someone is killed as a result of the negligence, carelessness, or intentional actions or inactions of another person or entity, close surviving family members including those who depended on the victim for support may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Whether or not a wrongful death action is feasible is determined on a case-by-case basis and, in cases such as the Oakland fire, can be complex. Certainly, what role if any the city of Oakland, the building owner and/or landlord played in this tragedy will be of interest as the investigation continues.

Building owners are responsible for ensuring their properties are safe and prepared for catastrophes to minimize injuries from such disasters as factory malfunctions, buildings collapsing, fires, natural disasters, and more. Catastrophic injuries can include burns and other physical injuries as well as mental trauma like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you have suffered a catastrophic injury or losses or if a loved one has been killed as a result of the negligence of another person or entity, the personal injury law firm of J &Y offers compassionate and aggressive representation to maximize your financial recovery. While we can’t undo the harm, we can help you recover from the financial burden of your loss so you can focus on grieving and healing. The law firm of J&Y serves clients throughout California. Call for a free consultation at 888-806-6722.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.