$2,190,000 :: DeLaTorre v. Kwan

SETTLEMENT : Multiple deaths in apartment fire

In the early morning hours of September 4, 1982, a fire swept through the Dorothy Mae Apartment Hotel. Nineteen people, including a mother and her unborn baby, perished as the blaze roared through the 43-unit complex. An additional 36 people were seriously injured that morning and, within 10 days, another six succumbed to their wounds bringing the death toll up to 25.

The Dorothy Mae Hotel fire soon became notorious for being the second deadliest fire in Los Angeles history. The court system sentenced the arsonist who set the blaze, Humberto de la Torre, 21, to 625 years in prison while the incident itself inspired fierce changes in local fire code legislatures and recommendations. Yet, while these new codes work and have worked to safeguard future potential victims, what of those who fell prey to the Dorothy Mae blaze?

Finding Financial Justice for the Victims & Their Families

Torrqnce attorney Lawrence R. Booth of Booth & Koskoff was hired to collectively represent the nearly 150 people who were injured and the family members of those who perished in the flames. Booth and his team filed a civil lawsuit against the owners of the hotel, a Los Angeles partnership that included attorney Hiram Kwan, alleging that the Dorothy Mae victims could have survived the blaze had necessary safety measures been taken.

“Some people may feel that it’s inappropriate for the building owners to be liable when the fire was a result of arson, particularly when the arsonist was a relative of the people who were injured,” Booth explained to reporters. “But the theory of the law is that buildings ought to be as safe as possible from fire, irrespective of what causes the fire, and we believe that if the building had been appropriately safeguarded, it would have been a very small fire, the Fire Department would have put it out and there would have been little, if any, injury or loss of life.”

Booth and his team gathered evidence showcasing such lack of safeguards, such as prior citations against the Dorothy Mae Apartment Hotel owners for routinely leaving fire doors open for extra ventilation. Booth and his team of experts argued that had the fire doors been closed, the fire would not have spread up the stairwells and to additional floors.

Four years after the fire, Booth & Koskoff obtained a settlement with the joint owners of the Dorothy Mae Apartment Hotel. The plaintiffs secured a $2.19 million settlement to be apportioned out among the victims and their families.

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