Oakland Reaches $32.7 Million Settlement With 'Ghost Ship' Victims - Rolling Stone
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Oakland Reaches $32.7 Million Settlement With ‘Ghost Ship’ Victims, Families

City claims no liability after reaching deal to disperse $23.5 million among families of 32 families, $9.2 million to permanently injured victim

In this photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, flowers are left at a makeshift memorial to those who died outside an art collective known as the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, Calif. The one-year anniversary of the deadliest building fire in the U.S. in more than a decade is bringing back painful memories for victims' families. It's also refocusing attention on Oakland, California, where the blaze occurred. Some critics say the beleaguered city hasn't moved quickly enough to prevent a similar tragedy.(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The city of Oakland agreed to a $32.7 million settlement with the victims and families of the "Ghost Ship" warehouse fire.

Ben Margot/AP

The city of Oakland agreed to a $32.7 million settlement with the victims and families of the “Ghost Ship” warehouse fire following a civil lawsuit stemming from the deadly 2016 fire at the warehouse/DIY venue that killed 36 people and injured dozens more.

According to the settlement, $23.5 million will go to the families of 32 of those killed in the fire — or $734,000 per family — while Sam Maxwell, who was left with permanent injuries from the blaze and a steep medical bill, will receive $9.2 million, the Mercury News reported. As part of the settlement, the city of Oakland stated they are not liable for the fire, and agreed to the $32.7 million settlement after factoring in a “cost-benefit analysis” had the lawsuit gone to trial.

The Mercury News added that police, fire, public works and building department officials visited the “Ghost Ship” warehouse and other nearby properties in East Oakland at least 245 times since 1988 and took no action against the property prior to the December 2016 fire; during one of the visits within a year of the blaze, body cam footage captured one police officer stating of the cluttered warehouse, “One spark and it will be all bad.” A firefighter at a nearby fire station also reportedly attended a Christmas party at the “Ghost Ship.” “There were hundreds of contacts, and [the city of Oakland] didn’t do anything about it,” attorney Mary Alexander, who represented 13 families, said.

“The amount doesn’t come close to approximating the loss of loved ones for my clients. The money is insignificant. There’s no amount of money in the world that can bring their loved ones back,” said lawyer Paul Matiasic, who represented five of the families.

In September 2019, the trial against the two men charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection to the “Ghost Ship” fire ended with a mistrial for one of the defendants and a full acquittal for the other. Max Harris, the warehouse’s “creative director,” was acquitted on all charges, while the building’s leaser Derick Almena faces a retrial after the jury split 10-2 in favor of conviction. Almena was recently released from jail over concerns regarding COVID-19 spread in the prison system.


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