Crime & Justice

Family of 20-year-old brings first suit in Oakland warehouse fire

This aerial photo shows the remains of a fire ravaged warehouse on December 05, 2016 that killed at least 36 people in Oakland, California. The death toll from a massive weekend fire at a warehouse near San Francisco shot up to 36, as authorities launched a criminal probe and pushed forth with recovery efforts.
This aerial photo shows the remains of a fire ravaged warehouse on December 05, 2016 that killed at least 36 people in Oakland, California. The death toll from a massive weekend fire at a warehouse near San Francisco shot up to 36, as authorities launched a criminal probe and pushed forth with recovery efforts.
JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

The parents of Michela Gregory, a 20-year-old college student who died in the arms of her boyfriend in the Dec. 2 warehouse fire in Oakland, have filed a lawsuit. It's believed to be the first civil lawsuit filed in the case. She was one of 36 fatalities.

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, evoked the last moments of the San Francisco State University student, saying she was trapped on the second floor of the 10,000-square-foot building that was a jumble of makeshift stairs and room dividers with no clear exit paths.

The building plunged into darkness when the fire started, the lawsuit said.

Gregory and the others "tried to exit the warehouse, but were unable to exit due to the unsafe conditions and configuration of the warehouse," the lawsuit alleges.

Her parents say the building's owner, main tenants, those who lived in the warehouse and promoted the music event should all be held accountable.

Mary Alexander, the attorney in the case, said "they did not have permits for residences, they didn't have the permits for events, there was no fire alarms, no sprinklers, no good egress, no good way to exit."

Alexander said the family planned to file a separate claim against Oakland alleging negligence by city officials. People living in and near the building had lodged repeated complaints to building inspectors, police and others about parties, trash and illegal residences at the converted warehouse.

The Alameda County district attorney's office has not yet decided whether to file criminal charges in connection with the fire.

It was the deadliest building fire in the United States in more than a decade.