$4.75 Million Settlement in 2011 Philly Apartment Complex Fire
By Dean I. Weitzman, Esq. on December 12th, 2014
A group of more than 100 renters whose possessions were destroyed in a January 2011 apartment building fire in West Philadelphia have reached a $4.75 million settlement with the owners and property managers of the complex.
The settlement, which was announced in a Dec. 11 story in The Legal Intelligencer, came three days into a trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The massive five-alarm blaze, which occurred on Jan. 10, 2011 at the Windermere Court Apartments, destroyed the four-story building on 48th Street near Walnut Street.
The plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against the building’s owners, New Jersey-based brothers Sam, David and Aron Ginsberg, and their property management companies, alleging that “the Ginsbergs did not install a fire suppression sprinkler system in the apartment building, against the city’s fire code, nor did they identify vertical air shafts in the building that purportedly caused the fire to spread throughout the structure,” the story reported.
The lawsuit also alleged that the defendants failed to properly train an employee of the apartment building “who silenced the fire alarm by cutting power to it when it first sounded,” according to the report. “By deactivating the alarm, court papers said, the employee shut off the alarm’s zone feature that directs firefighters to the origin of the fire.”
Firefighters battled the blaze for more than five hours, and then the remains of the burned-out structure “remained untouched for weeks, without repairs or stabilization, court papers said,” while the defendants made no attempts to help the plaintiffs save any of their belongings that might have survived the fire, according to the story. Later, the remains of the burned-out building were demolished, again without regard to any tenant belongings that might have survived the blaze and the long-term exposure to the weather that followed.
Earlier in the legal proceedings, the defendants had offered to settle the case with the more than 100 plaintiffs for a total of $1.5 million, which was rejected, the report stated.
The defendants argued in court that he building’s fire alarm did sound and that all of the occupants who were home were evacuated safely, while the building complied with the existing fire code and did not require a sprinkler system, the story reported. The defendants also argued that the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections had declared the building “imminently dangerous,” making it illegal to enter, and had ordered the demolition of the property.
“The defendants are not aware of a single decision by this commonwealth, or the enactment of any legislation, imposing duty on an actor that would require him to ‘place life and limb in peril,'” defense papers said, according to the report.
Civil lawsuits like this one occur every day when innocent victims suffer property or personal losses or are hurt or killed in a wide variety of incidents through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.
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