Housing Violations Led to Fatal Blaze, Family Claims

     MERCED, Calif. (CN) – “Egregious disrepair and deplorable maintenance” caused a recent house fire that killed two and injured six others, a family claims in court.
     The Crabbs and Halls had been either renting or visiting the home in question when an electrical fire ignited at approximately 5:32 a.m. on March 11, 2013, according to the complaint in Superior Court.
     Susan Diane Crabb and her daughter-in-law Lindsea Crabb died from their injuries in the days after the fire. Two of Susan’s children – James Hall and Jacob Crabb – were also injured in the fire, as were Hall’s wife, April, and the couple’s three adult children. Jacob had been married to Lindsea; their minor son also suffered injuries. Each survivor is a named plaintiff, as is James and Jacob’s sister Jennifer Lynn McDonald, who had not been there.
     The survivors claim that the fire spread quicker than it should have because the converted garage lacked fire blocking and had been illegally framed.
     Because glass in the windows had allegedly been sealed to the frame in one of the bedrooms, the family says they could not escape by that route. A window was also stuck and could not be opened in another bedroom, according to the complaint.
     They seek damages for negligence, emotional distress, premises liability and wrongful death from the owners of the house Mark and Sandra Yandow, who live in San Luis Obispo. Three other Santa Barbara-based owners of the property, Lee Yandow, John Weisz and Martin Cazarez, are also named as defendants, as are a trust for the Yandows and Yandow Realty Group.
     “The subject property was in a state of egregious disrepair and deplorable maintenance at the time of the fire and violated numerous code provisions,” the in 15-page complaint states. “These specific code violations were directly and proximately causal to the injuries and multiple deaths in the fire.”
     In addition to open space between the house and the fire box, there were other code violations that exacerbated the blaze, according to the complaint.
     “The lack of operable and/or missing smoke detectors in the northeast and northwest bedrooms and hallway compromised safety and thereby proximately and directly caused the injuries and multiple deaths in this tragic event,” the family says.
     Crabb’s wife Lindsea had been just 22. Her mother-in-law Susan Crabb was 51.
     “Before the date of the fire, defendants acted egregiously in that they engaged in despicable conduct in conscious disregard of the rights, safety and welfare of plaintiffs and decedents,” according to the complaint.
     This was apparent from the sealed or inoperable windows, and the “defective and dangerous wiring which caused the fire in which plaintiffs were injured and decedents were killed,” the family claims.
     They add: “Defendants had prior knowledge of the dangers and risks that such misconduct would and did create, including causing serious injury and death to members of the public. Despite such knowledge, defendants knowingly and recklessly failed and refused to keep the property they rented to plaintiffs and decedents safe and habitable in the interest of gaining financial profit.”
     Yandow Realty did not return a request for comment sent to its email address.
     The Crabbs, Halls and McDonald are represented by Ryan Bright with Klein DeNatale in Bakersfield, Calif.

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