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Attorney Stein Gives Insight into Da Vinci Apartment Fire Case

Los Angeles officials have stated that the Da Vinci Apartment fire that occurred in 2014, resulting in the destruction of the complex and brought damage to several adjacent structures was started by an arsonist. In an unexpected twist, the City of Los Angeles is suing GH Palmer Associates (GHPA), the developer of the complex, for $20 million, which is how much the city says it had to pay out of taxpayer money to repair the damaged buildings. Is the City of Los Angeles making a mistake by holding GHPA accountable instead of just the arsonist, who has never been linked to GHPA or the construction company that was working on the job? To get a perspective on the legal battle, spoke with California Real Estate Attorney Jennifer Stein of Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.

Attorney Stein explains that Los Angeles Fire Code Section 3312 states that an approved water supply for fire protection must be onsite as soon as combustible material arrives onsite as well. The Da Vinci Apartments were in a framing stage, meaning that it was comprised mainly of wood frames and balsa wood, when the arson struck but there was no "appropriate water supply" onsite. This alleged oversight is the groundwork for the City's lawsuit, which also claims the developer failed to compartmentalize construction, install fire walls or doors, and did not provide any security to prevent dangerous acts of vandalism, such as arson.

The Extended Ramifications of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit sheds light on an interesting question of liability in real estate law and development codes. Can a real estate developer be held liable for the willful acts of criminal that targeted their property? If it is determined that GHPA did meet all necessary fire codes, what happens to their liability then? The City of Los Angeles has ventured into similar territory before, however, once winning damages after a fire that started on a defendant's property and subsequently damaged adjacent utility poles.

Attorney Stein went on to say that developers can take the initiative to defend themselves from complicated lawsuits such as this one. Insurance policies that cover vandalism and unforeseeable consequences may help remove responsibility, as well as including indemnity clauses in initial contracts. A real estate developer should also be sure to create subcontracts with any other companies they hire to make it clear what they can be found liable for in the event of an accident or destructive incident. And, of course, hire an attorney before you get sued to make certain everything makes sense; if you wait for a lawsuit to seek legal help, you are already several steps behind the plaintiff.

If you would like to read Attorney Stein's full interview with, you can visit their website by clicking here; registration with their website may be necessary but it is currently free to do so (circa April 2016). If you need legal guidance from a California real estate attorney such as Ms. Stein, you can call 800.980.6907 to connect with Manly, Stewart & Finaldi. You can also fill out an online case evaluation form to begin.

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