Can Landlords be Criminally Liable for Injury and Death that Occurs Due to Negligence?

In most cases, if a landlord’s negligence leads to an unsafe condition on their property, the landlord generally won’t be held criminally liable for resulting injuries or death. However, an exception may occur if the landlord’s actions were especially egregious.

Last December, a fire killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship artist collective in Oakland, California. The space, which had been rented to artists as a living and working space, was also used for parties, similar to the dance party that was underway when the tragedy occurred.

The art collective’s manager, Derick Alamena and his assistant, Max Harris, were arrested earlier this week in connection with the deadly blaze. They are each being charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Although it is not believed that either Alamena or Harris had anything to do with starting the fire, their egregious disregard for the safety of tenants and party-goers has elevated their actions to criminal status. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Why Was the Ghost Ship Fire So Deadly?

When the fire began, party attendees tried to escape but found themselves trapped on the second floor. There was only one exit on the floor, and it had been blocked prior to the start of the party. In addition, the building had no sprinkler system, and there were no fire extinguishers on the second floor.

Alamena and Harris are facing criminal charges due to a string of bad decisions which preceded the tragedy. For starters, the building was not permitted for any of the activities Alamena had allowed. Artists lived in makeshift homes, including tents and RVs parked inside the building. And electricity from an adjacent building was carried, via extension cords, through a hole in the wall.

The victims’ families had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the building, party promoter, the city, and Alamena. However, no criminal charges had been filed until this week. When death results from negligence, a wrongful death lawsuit often follows. This is a civil, not criminal, lawsuit. However, when gross negligence leads to death, as in the case above, criminal charges may be filed. A Boston defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

Wrongful Death Vs. Criminal Charges

When families bring a wrongful death lawsuit against a party whose negligence caused the death of their loved one, it is a civil action. In order to prove that someone is guilty of causing another’s wrongful death, the plaintiff’s attorney must prove that the defendant’s carelessness or negligence resulted in death. However, the burden of proof in a wrongful death case is vastly different than in a criminal case. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must establish that the defendant committed a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt,” whereas a prosecutor in a civil case must only prove that the defendant is responsible by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which loosely translated means “more likely than not.”

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Top Criminal Defense Law Firm

If you have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of individuals charged with crimes for more than 50 years. It is our goal to keep you out of jail, protect your reputation, and keep your record clean. If you have been charged with any type of criminal offense, from OUI to murder, we can help you get your life back on track. Our experienced attorneys have an impressive track record of getting clients’ charges reduced, or dismissed entirely. People make mistakes. Don’t make another one by hiring the wrong attorney. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

Contact Information