W.Z. sued her landlord, Simranjit Deol, in Kern County Court on Tuesday.
“It’s a tragic case, but totally preventable,” her attorney David Ring told Courthouse News.
“Anyone who survives something like this is a strong person. She has a long way to go to come back, but she’ll get there. She’s a fighter.”
W.Z. says she rented a room from Deol in a two-story, five-bedroom house in a gated community that she shared with four other tenants, one of whom was a man named Adrian Hernandez.
Hernandez had “multiple felony convictions within the county of Kern alone, and likely elsewhere” for first- and second-degree burglary and there was an active warrant for his arrest, according to the 12-page complaint.
W.Z. says she was watching TV on the living room couch in March when Hernandez “approached her from behind and put her in a chokehold. He then placed a bag on her head, dragged her to the laundry room, and then began strangling her. Hernandez then forcefully dragged plaintiff upstairs, tied up her arms and legs, and then raped her in her own bedroom.”
The complaint continues: “After this, Hernandez attempted to drown plaintiff in a bathtub, causing plaintiff to come very close to losing consciousness. Hernandez then pulled plaintiff out of the bathtub, tied her up to a chair, poured gasoline all around her, and told her that he was going to set her on fire. After Hernandez started the fire and fled the subject property, plaintiff was able to free herself and escape from the subject property, which soon became completely engulfed in flames,” the complaint continues.
W.Z. reported the rape to the police, who issued a warrant for Hernandez’s arrest on charges of attempted murder and sexual assault, the local ABC News affiliate reported.
At 9:45 p.m. the next day, officers found Hernandez driving around Hart Park, a recreational area just outside the city. He fled, leading officers on a high speed chase through downtown Bakersfield. After driving off the road near a high school, Hernandez got out of the car with a gun. Police instantly opened fire, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
W.Z. claims Deol knowingly risked her safety by renting Hernandez a room despite knowing of his “violent and criminal history.”
“There’s no reason in the world he should have been allowed to live there,” attorney Ring said.
“Deol could have refused Hernandez as a tenant, taken other safety precautions or, at the very least, warned the other tenants of the subject property that Hernandez was a convicted felon,” the complaint states.
“People do lots of different things for money. They put people at risk, and when they do they have to face the consequences,” Ring said.
To top it off, according to the lawsuit, Deol fabricated a release after his attorney told him W.Z. intended to sue him and claimed she had waived her right to recover damages. But the only document W.Z. ever signed was an acknowledgment that Deol had bought new items to replace the possessions she lost in the fire, the complaint states.
Deol told Courthouse News he did not know about the lawsuit.
“I’ll tell my insurance and they will take care of it,” he said.
W.Z. seeks punitive damages for negligence, premises liability, intentional and unintentional misrepresentation, concealment and fraud.
Ring is with Taylor & Ring of Los Angeles.
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