Vallejo Senior Home Blamed for Fire

     FAIRFIELD, Calif. (CN) – Two new lawsuits blame owners and managers of the Casa de Vallejo senior home for a fire there. The new plaintiffs claim managers knew that a resident, a chronic alcoholic, had a “habit of smoking cigars while receiving medical oxygen” but they “provided (him) with alcohol and/or smoking tobacco” anyway.

     Twenty-seven residents sued The Ameriland Group a week ago, claiming owners and managers of the Casa de Vallejo blew off two fire code citations and failed to fix the alarm system. Courthouse News reported on this lawsuit Wednesday. In that complaint, the residents claimed that the defendants also refused to fix fire-code violations at two properties in Los Angeles even after they were criminally cited for it.
     In the new complaints, former residents of the burned home say the fire started in the apartment of Robert Bennett, who was using oxygen while drinking and smoking a cigar.
     Plaintiffs George Phillips and Elizabeth Nace claim the defendants knew that oxygen tanks were stored in Bennett’s apartment and “knew of Robert Bennett’s chronic alcoholism and habit of smoking cigars while receiving medical oxygen” but despite this knowledge they “provided Robert Bennett with alcohol and/or smoking tobacco.”
     As in the previous complaint, the two new plaintiffs say Casa de Vallejo managers made them sign liability release forms before returning their property to them.
     They add, “Section 8 vouchers were given to some and not others” for relocation, and that there was a “strong effort” made to solicit releases from the “extremely vulnerable” residents, to limit liability.
     The Casa de Vallejo, built in 1919, was “known to be made of highly flammable material and was at significant risk of rapid incineration in the event of a fire,” according to the new complaints.
     The nearly identical lawsuits claim that though owners and managers knew of the defective fire system and the dangers from an open flame in the vicinity of oxygen, they did not act to protect the safety of residents.
     They add that the Department of Housing and Urban Development lease the defendants used states that a tenant’s lease may be terminated if “a household member’s abuse or pattern of abuse of alcohol threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents.”
     Defendants include Amerland Group LLC, Ameriland/Vallejo LLC, Pacific Housing Inc., Vallejo Housing Partners LP, Logan Property Management Inc., SimplexGrinnell LP and Tyco International (US) Inc., which allegedly installed or maintained the fire system, and several individuals. The two new plaintiffs are represented by Nancy Conway, of San Francisco.

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