A group of residents of the Barrington Plaza Apartments, where a Jan. 29 fire killed one person, injured more than a dozen and displaced 339 tenants, are suing the owner of the 25-story tower.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was filed against Douglas Emmett Inc., one of the world's largest real estate companies, on behalf of 17 residents. The complaint alleges that the second fire at the property in less than seven years occurred due to the owners' disregard for its responsibility to inspect, maintain and provide the basic mechanisms to prevent or mitigate fire damage in the building.
A Douglas Emmett representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
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The plaintiffs suffered emotional distress, physical injuries and property losses and are seeking unspecified damages, according to the suit filed last week.
The complaint alleges that despite numerous resident complaints and a previous lawsuit putting Douglas Emmett on notice for failing to equip the property with fire sprinklers, pressurized fire escape stairwells, operable smoke detectors and operable fire alarms, the defendant took no action to implement those safety mechanisms before the January blaze.
"The Barrington Plaza Apartments complex was a ticking time bomb," said plaintiffs' attorney Matthew McNicholas. "This property is fatally unsafe as a result of Douglas Emmett's disregard for the well-being of its tenants. They have been aware of the fire safety issues for years and failed to take any action to implement the necessary safety mechanisms, which led to the chaos that ensued during the January fire."
The lack of sprinklers prevented the fire being eliminated before becoming a danger to others, and the lack of operable smoke detectors and fire alarms meant many tenants weren't aware of the fire and became trapped in their units, the complaint alleges.
With no pressurized stairwells to prevent the smoke from entering the stairwells, tenants were injured while trying to escape through the smoke-filled passageways, according to the suit.
The fire started on the building's seventh floor, which is the sixth "residential" floor above the building's lobby, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. The flames also affected the sixth, eighth and ninth floors.
A 19-year-old exchange student from France died of his injuries two days later. He was inside the unit where the fire started, along with another man who was taken to a hospital with critical injuries after being rescued from the side of the building.
In total, 13 people were injured in the fire, including three firefighters and a month-old child who suffered injuries described as non-critical, according to the LAFD.
Most of the injuries involved smoke inhalation. Two of the firefighters suffered minor burns while battling the flames that broke out at the complex at 11740 Wilshire Blvd., near Barrington Avenue, at 8:37 a.m. and took about an hour and a half to extinguish.
The earlier fire at the complex in October 2013 caused the hospitalization of five residents, including a child, according to the plaintiffs.