OAKLAND, Calif. - An Alameda County judge has ruled Oakland officials had a “mandatory duty” to ensure safety at the doomed Ghost Ship warehouse, leaving the city potentially liable for a fire where 36 people died - a ruling that helps the victims who are suing the city.
Alameda County Judge Brad Seligman’s decision Wednesday is a big blow in the typical broad immunity usually granted to cities to protect workers for failing to inspect buildings, the East Bay Times reported.
While Oakland still has the ability to make a summary judgment motion — a request for the court to drop the case — the finding of “mandatory duty” for now leaves the city potentially liable for the death and displacement of partygoers and Ghost Ship tenants, the Times explained.
KTVU reached out to the city for comment early Thursday but no one immediately returned comment.
Before the fire, there were many visits to the warehouse by police officers, firefighters and city officials. Still, despite a shoddy electrical system and clearly dangerous living conditions, the artist collective was never shut down.
And in December 2016, the building erupted in flames during an electronic music concert and 36 people died. The victims' families are suing the city of Oakland. Victims' attorneys say the city, along with the building's owner, failed to take action. The city of Oakland can still file a motion to ask the court to drop the lawsuit.
As the civil suit plays out, the master tenant, Derick Almena, and fellow tenant, Max Harris, are both behind bars facing 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.