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City of Oakland Settles Ghost Ship Fire Civil Suit for Nearly $33 Million

$9.2 million will go to survivor Sam Maxwell who battles lifelong injuries

The City of Oakland announced in a release that it has settled with the families of the 2016 Ghost Ship fire that left 36 people dead. The suit was brought on behalf of 32 of the 36 families of the people who died in the fire.

Of the $32.7 million that will be paid out, $9.2 will go to plaintiff and Ghost Ship fire survivor Sam Maxwell, who is battling severe lifelong injuries and major medical expenses.

The settlement brings to a close the civil suit, and the city continues to assert, per the settlement, that it is not liable for the loss of life. Instead, the release says, the city settled the case because of the cost-benefit analysis.

A retrial in the criminal case against Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena is set to resume in October. Previously, the criminal case against Almena resulted in a mistrial last October. Almena’s co-defendant Max Harris, was acquitted of all charges. Both men faced 36 charges of involuntary manslaughter and a maximum of 39 years in prison.

The fire happened during a dance party for the 100% Silk record label on Dec. 2, 2016 at a commercially permitted warehouse that Almena was accused of illegally converting into a ramshackle live-work space for artists. Electricity was reportedly wired into the building from an adjacent auto shop and a staircase was built out of wooden palettes. Prosecutors described the space as a “death trap” and alleged that Almena failed to provide smoke detectors, fire alarms, sprinklers, and other required safety equipment. The building’s landlord claimed they did not know anyone was living inside.

Both pleaded no contest in July 2018 in a deal that would have given Almena nine years in prison and Harris six years in prison, but a judge rejected the agreement after victims’ families criticized the sentences as too lenient.

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