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Tenants accuse Westside high-rise owner of negligence after fire

Barrington Plaza's owner is facing a negligence lawsuit stemming from an October fire that caused extensive damage.

January 08, 2014|By Joseph Serna and Richard Winton
  • Firefighters stand on a charred balcony after putting out a fire at the Barrington Plaza high-rise apartment building on Wilshire Boulevard.
Firefighters stand on a charred balcony after putting out a fire at the Barrington… (Genaro Molina, Los Angeles…)

A group of tenants in a Westside high-rise that was the scene of a dramatic fire in October are suing the building's corporate owner for negligence.

Atty. Mark Geragos filed the suit Wednesday against Barrington Plaza and its corporate owner, Douglas Emmett.

"The conditions at the supposedly high-end apartment building were atrocious," Geragos said. "Our goal is to try and get them to correct what I consider their outrageous conduct."

According to residents, several fire alarms failed to sound in the 25-story Barrington Plaza as the fire spread within a single apartment on the southwest side on the 11th floor. A door to the roof was locked and the stairwells filled with choking smoke, tenants said.

"It was a wall of black, absolutely impenetrable," said Pamela Day, who lived on the 23rd floor. "The only option was to retreat back to my apartment. It was too late to escape."

According to firefighters, the blaze was accidental and limited to a single apartment, but the damage spread far beyond and cost millions of dollars. Floors above and below were closed for weeks and hundreds of residents were temporarily displaced.

"It's a deathtrap," said Ivo Gerscovich, whose 2-year-old daughter, Avril, and father-in-law were found passed out in a smoke-filled stairwell above the 20th floor. "It's totally insane and indefensible."

Several residents — including the plaintiffs in the suit — have moved out since the fire. Building officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Barrington Plaza is one of more than 70 buildings in Los Angeles that do not require fire sprinklers because of a loophole in state and local regulations, city officials said.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

richard.winton@latimes.com

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