Oakland Concert Warehouse Fire Compensation
Oakland Concert Warehouse Fire Compensation
Jimmy Doan and the staff of the Doan law Firm – San Francisco extends
our condolences to the families of those who died in the tragic fire at
the Ghost Ship artist collective in Oakland. We know that such times are
among the most stressful that anyone can ever have the misfortune to endure,
but we also know that you will prevail over your grief and emerge even
stronger than before.
As the death toll from Friday night’s fire at the warehouse turned
artists’ collective known locally as the Ghost Ship continues to
rise, questions concerning liability for the deaths and injuries resulting
from the fire are being raised.
Another post on this site, making use of preliminary reports and statements
made by current and former residents of the Ghost Ship, suggests that
the former warehouse’s owner and the City of Oakland may share some
degree of liability for the disaster.
Definition of Wrongful Death
In California, a wrongful death occurs when one person dies as the result
of the wrongful act or negligence of another person or group of people.
By this definition, every victim of the Ghost Ship fire has died a wrongful
death and their survivors have the right to be compensated for their losses
by filing a wrongful death claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
California civil law specifies that only the surviving family members,
or the personal representative of a victim’s estate, can file a
wrongful death claim. As to the family survivors, the order of survivorship
for family members is as follows:
- the spouse or domestic partner of the victim, but the domestic partnership
must have been registered
- the surviving children of the victim
- if there is no spouse, registered domestic partner, or children of the
victim, then any person who could have inherited from the victim’s
estate may file a wrongful death claim
- in certain conditions, the “putative” spouse of the victim
or the parents of the victim
What Damages Can Be Recovered By Families?
While nothing can replace the loss of a family member or a friend, the
civil laws of California allow the surviving family members of fire victims
to file wrongful death claims against all whose negligence contributed
to this tragedy. In general, family members can receive compensation for:
- all funeral, burial, and related expenses
- lost income that the victim could have made, and all support the victim
would have provided to the survivors
- emotional pain and suffering
- legal expenses related to the death
California allows the defendants in wrongful death lawsuits to argue that
the victim’s own actions may have contributed to their deaths. This
is known as the doctrine of comparative negligence and, if successful,
allows any awarded damages in a wrongful death claim to be reduced by
the percentage that the victim was at least partially responsible.
Given the circumstances of the Ghost Ship fire, it is highly unlikely that
this defense would be used, but it is mentioned here for the sake of completeness.
Statutes of Limitations and Wrongful Death Claims
California places a time limit, known as the statute of limitations, under
which a wrongful death claim must be filed. In the case of the Ghost Ship
fire, claims must be filed within 2 years of the date of death (in this
case, filed by December 2, 2018).
Possible City / County Negligence As Contributing Factor
If the City of Oakland / Alameda County are found to have been less than
efficient or even negligent in their investigations of the complaints
received about the warehouse, the California Tort Claims Act will come
A filing under the California Tort Claims Act is required for any claim
that involves a city, county, or state employee or a government entity.
In its simplest terms, this procedure is as follows:
- A claim for compensation must be filed with the California Victims Compensation
Board (calVCB) within 6 months of the date of death (for victims of the
Ghost Ship fire, by June 2, 2017)
- CalVCB then has 45 working days from the day the claim was received to
either approve or deny the claim. If it denies the claim, it must inform
you of the reasons and tell you how you may appeal the Board’s decision
- You can elect to file a wrongful death claim with the courts, naming the
Board and others as defendants.
Again, the staff of the Doan Law Firm would like to express our sympathies
to the families touched by the Ghost Ship fire and will be glad to answer
any questions that the survivors might have regarding legal issues related
to this tragedy.
The Doan Law Firm
1901 Harrison Street, Suite 1100
Oakland, California 94612
Phone (800) 349-0000