Oakland agrees to settle last lawsuit from Ghost Ship fire that killed 36


OAKLAND, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — Oakland City Council on Tuesday agreed to pay $399,000 to settle the last lawsuit over a 2016 fire at an illegally converted warehouse dubbed the Ghost Ship that killed 36 people.

The city doesn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement of a lawsuit by a dozen former residents, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The warehouse had been illegally converted into a residential space for artists and an event venue when it caught fire on Dec. 2, 2016, during an electronic music party.

The building was packed with furniture, extension cords and other flammable material but had only two exits and no smoke detectors, fire alarms or sprinklers, authorities said.

In July, the City Council agreed to pay $32.7 million to settle lawsuits filed by the families of 32 victims and one survivor who suffered lifelong injuries.

$9 million went to Sam Maxwell, who survived the blaze but “will live with severe, lifelong injuries and major medical expenses,” a city statement said.

The settlement is one of the largest in city history but Paul Matiasic, an attorney for five families, called it “insignificant.”

Tuesday’s settlement resolves the “last remaining claims” of lawsuits arising from the fire, Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee said in a statement.

The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, although some lawsuits said there were serious electrical problems with the building.

Prosecutors charged Derick Almena, the master tenant on the warehouse lease, with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, arguing that he was criminally negligent when he converted and sublet the space. A judge declared a mistrial last fall. Almena is awaiting retrial.

Almena’s attorneys argued city workers were to blame for not raising concerns about fire hazards in the warehouse. City officials had said the building hadn’t been inspected for three decades, and when inspectors did visit the site in November 2016, they were unable to enter to investigate a report of illegal construction.

A co-defendant, Max Harris, was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges last year and no longer lives in the state.

The building’s owner, Chor Ng, wasn’t charged with a crime.

In December 2019, a TV series about the deadly fire was scrapped because of pushback from friends and families of the victims.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KRON contributed to this report.

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