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Oakland Can Be Liable for Ghost Ship Fire

By George Khoury, Esq. on May 07, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The tragedy at the Ghost Ship warehouse may now be a distant memory to some people, but the cases over the deadly fire continue on in the courts.

Recently, in the civil case being fought out in the Alameda County court, the City of Oakland lost a significant issue on demurrer. The city had claimed that it could not be held liable because its duty to shut down the warehouse could not be triggered without an inspection, and an inspection never happened. That argument, the court explained, fell short.

A Mandatory Duty

While the city of Oakland is just one of many defendants in the Ghost Ship case, the plaintiffs claim that the city was aware of the unsafe conditions and failed to act. The plaintiffs allege that the city should be held liable for failing to take action because both police and fire had been called to the location several times before the date of the fire, making the city aware of the problems.

The city unsuccessfully argued that because city employees never reported the multiple violations, an inspection from the building department was never triggered, and thus, the city could be held to have breached any duty stemming from the failure to inspect the Ghost Ship warehouse. The plaintiffs were able to convince the court that the failure of city employees to report the unsafe conditions and trigger an inspection was a failure of a mandatory duty.

Long Road Ahead

The civil case is set for trial in October 2019. Given that it has taken well over a year to go from complaint to answer, however, just goes to show that the fall 2019 trial date may actually be optimistic.

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