The former residents of Windermere Court Apartments in West Philadelphia will finally be compensated for the five-alarm fire that tore through their building in Jan. 2011, destroying their homes and most of their possessions.
More than 100 former residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the property’s owners, Sam, David and Aron Ginsberg and their respective management companies. The $4.75 million settlement, which is currently pending court approval, will be split among the former residents.
“I can’t tell you the hugs and the crying of the class members and the notes and the calls that I’ve been getting,” Marrone told Philly.com. “They have just been so gratifying.”
According to the lawsuit, the Ginsberg brothers failed to maintain the apartment properly, increasing the severity of the blaze and the extent of the damage. The lawsuit argued that the building lacked effective smoke detectors, fire alarms and sprinkler systems, and that a poorly trained maintenance employee cut power to the fire alarm system when it did go off.
“Maintaining robust fire safety standards and safety measures, as well as having clearly defined evacuation procedures are critical elements of a fire safety plan for any apartment building,” says Svetlana Mosyurova, Marketing Director, Post Brothers Apartments in Philadelphia.
Eventually, over 160 firefighters arrived on the scene to put out the fire, but it took five hours to extinguish completely, and the structure was deemed unstable by the Department of Licenses and Inspections, meaning that displaced residents couldn’t retrieve their belongings. When they were finally allowed in, most possessions were looted or damaged beyond repair.
According to the lawsuit, these results could have been prevented if managerial oversight hadn’t caused 911 to be notified so late. Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Mary Colins agreed.
Though this traumatic saga is finally winding down for the victorious Windemere Court residents, it’s only beginning for residents in an apartment complex in neighboring Delaware. A two-alarm blaze devoured Harbor House Apartments in Claymont last week, leaving one person dead, another injured, and 40 displaced.
It took crews three hours to extinguish the fire, and the fire marshal is currently looking into the possibility that the smoke alarms weren’t working properly.