A lawsuit seeking $20 million in damages was announced Thursday by the Los Angeles City Attorney in connection with a 2014 fire at a downtown apartment construction site.
The lawsuit filed against GH Palmer Associates accuses the developer of "negligence to take preventive action to mitigate" the massive fire that broke out on the morning of Dec. 8, 2014.
"We're fighting to fully compensate the city's taxpayers for losses we allege could have been avoided had this massive building incorporated key safety measures and been better constructed," City Attorney Mike Feuer said.
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The fire spread quickly over the 75,000-square-foot unoccupied property, burning a seven-story wood frame structure next to the 110 Freeway. The busy downtown LA freeway was closed during the morning drive as firefighters knocked down the fire.
Thick smoke blanketed downtown Los Angeles and heat from the fire was blamed for damage to nearby buildings, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, owned and leased by the city, according to the lawsuit.
The company allegedly created a fire hazard at the apartment site in the 900 block of West Temple Street by failing to "maintain, construct and manage the property according to code," the lawsuit said. The lawsuit cites an inadequate fire protection plan, including failure to install fire walls and lacking security measures that would have prevented someone from entering the property.
Dawud Abdulwali, 56, was arrested in May of last year on suspicion of setting off the blaze. He is awaiting trial on one felony count each of arson of a structure and aggravated arson.
He has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court in March.
A comment from the developer was not immediately available.