September 29, 2020 Your Source for Brentwood News

‘A Ticking Time Bomb’

Lawsuit filed on behalf of Barrington Plaza residents claiming negligence in January fire

By Sam Catanzaro

Los Angeles-based trial firm McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP has filed a lawsuit on behalf of residents of the Barrington Plaza Apartments after a January 29, 2020 fire killed one person, injured more than a dozen and displaced 339 residents.

According to the lawsuit filed against Douglas Emmett, Inc., one of the largest real estate companies in the world, this is the second fire at the property in less than seven years. The lawsuit claims these fires were a result of Douglas Emmett’s “conscious disregard for its responsibility to inspect, maintain and provide even the most basic mechanisms to prevent or mitigate fire damage in the building.”

Douglas Emmett Management, LLC and Barrington Pacific, LLC also are named in the lawsuit.

Brentwood News has reached out to Douglas Emmett for comment but the company could not immediately be reached.

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that despite numerous resident complaints and a previous lawsuit putting Douglas Emmett on notice for failing to equip the property with fire sprinklers, pressurized fire escape stairwells, operable smoke detectors and operable fire alarms, Douglas Emmett continued to “recklessly” and “unnecessarily” endanger tenants by taking no action to implement these safety mechanisms.

“The Barrington Plaza Apartments complex was a ticking time bomb,” said Matthew McNicholas, Partner at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP. “This property is fatally unsafe as a result of Douglas Emmett’s disregard for the well-being of its tenants. They have been aware of the fire safety issues for years and failed to take any action to implement the necessary safety mechanisms, which led to the chaos that ensued during the January fire.”

On January 29, 2020, a fire broke out on the sixth and seventh floors of the Plaza’s “A” Building and filled the entire 25-story tower with smoke.

The lawsuit claims the lack of sprinklers prevented the fire being put out before endangering others.

“Due to the lack of operable smoke detectors and fire alarms, many tenants weren’t notified of the fire and became trapped in their units. The lack of pressurized stairwells to prevent the fire’s thick black smoke from entering the stairwells resulted in tenants suffering injuries as they ran through the smoke-filled stairwells to escape,” reads a statement from McNicholas & McNicholas.

The fire left one person dead, 13 injured from burns and smoke inhalation, 15 that had to be airlifted from the roof by helicopters and 339 displaced.

“The 17 plaintiffs have suffered life-changing emotional distress, physical injuries, and extensive personal property loss,” McNicholas & McNicholas said.

This was the second fire at Barrington Plaza Apartments in the last six years. A October 18, 2013 fire resulted in five residents being transported to the hospital, including a child in critical condition. According to McNicholas & McNicholas in that fire, fire alarms didn’t go off; the “defective” intercom system did not notify tenants of a fire and tenants were not warned by employees nor were they assisted in escaping.

In addition, plaintiffs contend the following: fire escape stairways were defective and filled with heavy black smoke, causing the fire to proliferate; Tenants learned of the fire too late and could not reach the fire exit to safely escape because of the thick black smoke and not having been notified; The tenants could not access the roof because the fire exit door was locked, trapping the tenants in the flame engulfed building; and Douglas Emmett’s employees abandoned their posts instead of notifying the tenants that the fire existed.

“The defendants were aware of the fire safety issues and had received complaints of the lack of safety mechanisms prior to the 2013 fire, yet took no action. Despite a subsequent lawsuit putting the defendants on notice for their misconduct, and for greed and failure to meet the minimum standard of care for tenants, the defendants still failed to take appropriate action to make vital repairs. These fire safety issues were still known and in existence as of the January 29, 2020 fire,” McNicholas & McNicholas said.

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