Settlement reached in Las Vegas’ deadliest residential fire
Dozens of plaintiffs who sued in the aftermath of the Alpine Motel fire have reached a confidential settlement, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
Updated March 9, 2023 - 8:49 am
Dozens of plaintiffs who sued in the aftermath of the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas history have reached a confidential settlement, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
Attorney Robert Murdock filed a notice Wednesday indicating the settlement is pending a judge’s approval. The notice marks the end of 14 separate lawsuits that had been consolidated into a single case in the aftermath of the fire at the Alpine Motel Apartments.
Murdock declined to comment on the settlement on Wednesday. Attorney Robert Eglet, who also represents plaintiffs in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The building’s former owner, Adolfo Orozco, and his civil attorney, Steven Jaffe, declined to comment on the case Wednesday.
The fire on Dec. 21, 2019, at the downtown apartment complex left six dead, 13 injured and nearly 50 people without shelter. The lawsuits named nearly 20 defendants, including Orozco, and the companies accused of failing to maintain the building’s fire alarm system.
When the blaze broke out, the Alpine’s back door was bolted shut, the fire alarm system was malfunctioning and the building did not have a working sprinkler system, according to the lawsuits.
Orozco and Malinda Mier, the building’s former manager, are also facing criminal charges in connection with the fire. A preliminary hearing in the case, which resumed last month after a two-year hiatus, continued Wednesday with testimony from the city’s fire marshal and an inspector with the Las Vegas Fire Department.
In the weeks after the fire, the Review-Journal obtained records showing that inspectors noted 42 fire code violations after the blaze, including the locked rear door, a lack of a functioning sprinkler system and missing or defective smoke detectors in at least 14 locations throughout the building.
Austin Barnum, one of Orozco’s defense attorneys, questioned Las Vegas Fire Marshal Robert Nolan about an interview he gave to the Review-Journal for the article. The newspaper reported that Nolan regretted that his office failed to inspect the Alpine in the 32 months leading up to the fire.
“That’s on me,” Nolan was quoted in the article. “In hindsight, I wish we would have gone back there.”
When asked if he believed that any statements attributed to him were false, Nolan said that the story was “very factual,” although he said part of his quote was taken out of context.
“The strategies and the goals and the priorities of the program were my determination, were my responsibility,” he testified Wednesday. “And that’s on me, to inspect apartment buildings.”
Michael Svoboda, an inspector with the Las Vegas Fire Department, testified that he had been back to the building for multiple follow-up inspections after noting issues at the Alpine over the years. Svoboda testified that he told Orozco in 2016 that he would face fines if he didn’t bring the building into compliance.
He testified that in 2017 he had asked a newly created Community Risk Reduction team, which was meant to address fire fatalities in multifamily buildings, to follow up with the Alpine about a fire violation. But Svoboda said that he wasn’t aware of the team following up on his request.
Svoboda also testified that inspections showed that some doors leading into apartment rooms were not fire safe. He said properly fire-rated doors could prevent fire from spreading throughout the building.
“It would compartmentalize that fire, in theory, to that unit and keep it from spreading,” he said.
Contact Katelyn Newberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.