One of the last bits of legal fallout from the 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland appears to have reached a resolution, and families of some of the 36 victims are going to share a $12 million settlement from the owners of the property.
The Ng family, who own the Ghost Ship warehouse in the Fruitvale District and rented it to Derick Almena, will not be held criminally liable for the tragic fire — the statute of limitations on that ran out in December 2019. But as KRON4 reports, the Ng family has struck a deal to settle a civil lawsuit with the families of 13 fire victims and 12 others who formerly lived in the warehouse.
Attorney Mary Alexander, who represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement that while her clients were disappointed that the landlords would not be held criminally responsible, they were glad that they would be held financially accountable.
"The owners of the building, the Ngs, went into voluntary bankruptcy," Alexander said, per KRON4. "That’s so that we will have not only their insurance policy but [they] will also sell the properties that they have in Oakland and those proceeds will go to the families."
ABC 7 reported that the Ngs had agreed to sell real estate to pay $6 million of the settlement, with their insurance covering the remainder.
Landlord Chor Ng and her children had been the subject of inquiries about the cause of the tragic fire, which broke out during an event at the warehouse managed by Almena on December 2, 2016. Early reports suggested that the Ngs turned a blind eye to the illegal buildout and shoddy electrical wiring that was done by Almena, which was likely primarily to blame for the blaze — though an official source of the fire was never determined.
Following a 2019 criminal trial that ended in a hung jury on Almena's guilt, acquitting co-defendant Max Harris, Almena pleaded guilty to 36 counts of manslaughter in January 2021 as part of plea deal that got him out of jail with time served.
Alexander said that the families have already settled cases with PG&E and the City of Oakland.
"The families really wanted to see the Ngs charged criminally and be held responsible for letting this building be such a fire trap, for having people living there and for unpermitted events and so this civil suit, though the amount of money is not enough to compensate them fully, but at least it’s some sense of justice,” Alexander said, per KRON4.
“It has been almost five years and it is still very raw and still very upsetting to the families," Alexander said. "We’re hoping this will give them some sense of justice, this compensation."
Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images