Ten days after Jorge and Juanita Chavez filed a lawsuit for negligence following a deadly fire in Redwood City, 11 more former residents of the Hallmark House Apartments have also sued Newport Beach-based KDF Hallmark, according to complaints filed in San Mateo County Superior Court Friday.
All the plaintiffs so far are being represented by attorney Ara Jabagchourian with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy who told the Daily Journal yesterday that more plaintiffs will likely emerge.
KDF Hallmark officials have also been hard to find, Jabagchourian said.“It is a finely diced subsidiary and they haven’t been served yet,” he said about the multiple lawsuits.The six-alarm blaze July 7 at the 72-unit complex on Woodside Road left nearly 100 people homeless and one man dead.
Fire investigators have stated the fire was likely an accident that started in a third-floor unit where the deceased, 48-year-old Darin Michael Demello-Pine, was cooking at about 1:45 a.m.The complex did not have sprinklers and has been ruled uninhabitable by fire officials.New complaints were filed by former residents Tacoe Ahuna, Philip Deluca, Larry Love, Valarie Martinez, Denise Mostek-White, Barbara Spann, Jacqueline Smith, Amy Sacramento, Brenda Rolen, George Regino and Atory Ward Jr.
The blaze was the fault of KDF Hallmark’s “failure to properly inspect, maintain and safeguard the property from a foreseeable unit fire,” according to the first complaint filed by the Chavez family.
The complex did not have a sprinkler system and KDF Hallmark, by not installing one after it purchased the property for $8 million in 2003, is liable for damages, according to the complaints.In Deluca’s complaint, he alleges the fire was localized and should have been put out quickly with a sprinkler system, limiting the damage to the one unit.He also alleges in the complaint that he has lost most of his life’s possessions.
About half of the former tenants in the building receive some type of assistance from the county, including housing vouchers.“Many have physical or mental disabilities and were more susceptible to danger,” Jabagchourian said.
Officials with KDF Hallmark have not responded to requests for comment by the Daily Journal.KDF has been involved in the construction, acquisition and rehabilitation of more than 5,300 affordable rental units in 44 properties throughout California, according to the company’s website.
KDF Hallmark did return deposits quickly to residents and also reimbursed them for July rent, a Redwood City police official previously told the Daily Journal.