Girardi | Keese

Hotel Fire Leaves 14 People Injured, Liability Questions Exist

when an aggressive and fast-moving fire forced them out of the building. Fortunately, none of the guests died in the blaze but 14 people suffered injuries. Three guests were hospitalized in critical condition.

In cases like this, guests may be able to recover damages for their injuries under premises liability theories. The answer will depend on a thorough investigation that looks at how the hotel maintained the building.

The fire broke out around 3:30 a.m. and quickly spread to destroy seven hotel rooms. All of the guests fled the building but at least one had to jump from a second-floor window, possibly sustaining broken bones. Firefighters were able to help others down from the second floor.

In a premises liability case, the central question is whether the owner knew of a dangerous condition and allowed it to continue while still letting guests stay there. One issue that could come up here is whether the old building should have been equipped with fire sprinklers. Fire fighters reported that the smoke alarms were in working order - but it is not clear if any sprinklers existed to combat a fire.

The fire department is also looking at whether arson might have been involved. Arson-related fires often do not trigger premises liability because a third-party criminal deliberately sets out to overwhelm the owner's otherwise-reliable safety systems.

Many detailed nuances affect property law and questions of premises liability - an experienced personal injury lawyer can help victims understand whether they have a case.

Source: Associated Press, "14 hurt, 3 critically, in Los Angeles hotel fire," Jan. 22, 2013

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