The owner of a downtown Las Vegas apartment building where six people died in the deadliest residential fire in city history has been hit with another lawsuit seeking damages. This time, several fire alarm manufacturers, sellers and monitoring companies were also named as defendants.
Attorney Steven Jaffe, representing Alpine Apartments owner Adolfo Orozco, declined to comment about the lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of Richard and Michelle Aikens and their two children who were in the building when the fire erupted Dec. 21, plus more than 40 other victims, family members and witnesses.
It seeks financial damages for negligence and emotional distress against Orozco, his company, Las Vegas Dragon Hotel, and at least six other business entities.
At least three other cases were filed separately since January against Dragon Hotel and Orozco in state court in Las Vegas.
The Aikens case was filed days after attorneys and a state court judge met by telephone and videoconference to talk about returning personal items to people displaced by the fire, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Officials have said about 50 people lived at the 41-unit former motel that was built in 1972.
“When residents attempted to evacuate, many found that the rear exit door had been barricaded,” attorneys led by Richard Eglet said in the lawsuit. “Several were found trapped in the building, unable to escape, while others resorted to jumping from the second- and third-story windows to escape the flames.”
Eglet specializes in complex and class-action lawsuits. He represented 2,500 people in an $800 million settlement last year with casino owner MGM Resorts International stemming from the deadliest mass killing in modern U.S. history. He also won hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements against pharmaceutical firms and healthcare companies after a 2007 Las Vegas hepatitis C outbreak.
Fire officials have said the Alpine Apartments fire apparently started around a stove in a first-floor apartment before dawn after a night with outdoor temperatures in the 40’s. Responding firefighters reported finding stove burners turned on and smoke alarms sounding but not fire alarms. Officials said some residents reported that alarms didn’t work properly and they used kitchen stoves to stay warm because the building lacked heat.
Three people were found dead inside and three others outside after the smoky fire was extinguished. It wasn’t clear if anyone died falling or jumping from windows. Most of the 13 people reported to have been injured suffered from smoke inhalation.
A police homicide investigation remains open.
The fire was the deadliest in Las Vegas since 1980, when 87 people died and more than 700 were injured in a blaze at the MGM Grand Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The hotel is now Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.
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