OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The first lawsuit in connection with the deadly West Oakland apartment fire that left four people dead in late March was filed Wednesday morning.
The suit was filed at 9 a.m. Wednesday by attorney Ken Greenstein, the lawyer representing 15 tenants who lived at the apartment building located at 2551 San Pablo Avenue.
The suit asserts that Keith Kim and his company, Mead Avenue Housing Associates, knew that the three-story, 43-unit property at 2551 San Pablo Ave. was dangerously dilapidated and yet did little or nothing to properly repair it.
“It was a fire that was waiting to happen,” said the plaintiff’s attorney Ken Greenstein. “Keith Kim should have known that a fire like this could have happened.”
Greenstein made similar allegations against three non-profit groups, Urojas Community Services, House of Change Inc., and Dignity Housing West Inc., that all allegedly acted as master tenants for several of the property’s residents.
Eliza Anderson, one of the fire victims and a mother of three children who lived at the building, described what it was like to escape the fatal fire that ripped through the apartments nearly one month ago.
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“All I heard was people banging on walls and screaming ‘Fire! Fire! Fire!'” said Anderson.
Greenstein says the slum-like environment his clients were living in are to blame for the fire that killed four people, injured six and displaced nearly 100.
“I’ve sued landlords all over the state and this property, I can tell you, was probably one of the worst properties in Oakland,” explained Greenstein.
The lawsuit filed against Kim and master tenants says the people who lived there had to deal with a mold infestation problem, vermin and raw sewage leaks.
The building also had a defective fire alarm system, blocked fire exits and severe electrical defects.
“Every plaintiff we talked to has emphatically said no fire alarms went off during the fire,” said Greenstein.
Greenstein claims the owner of the building received several complaints from the tenants for years and did little to nothing about them.
“Slumlord-ness is killing people,” said Anderson.
The cause of the March 27th fire is still under investigation.