Lawsuit in fatal Dartmouth apartment building fire now certified as class action

·2 min read
Firefighters are shown battling the fire at an apartment building on Primrose Street in Dartmouth, N.S., on May 19, 2018. (Emma Davie/CBC - image credit)
Firefighters are shown battling the fire at an apartment building on Primrose Street in Dartmouth, N.S., on May 19, 2018. (Emma Davie/CBC - image credit)

A fatal fire three years ago at an apartment building in Dartmouth, N.S., is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit.

The fire May 19, 2018, at 81 Primrose St. caused extensive damage and claimed the life of a single tenant.

The legal action was launched by a number of former tenants six months after the fire, but complications prevented it from being certified as a class action until a decision released this week by a justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Certification allows the lawsuit to move forward in the court process.

Part of the problem was identifying who should be part of the lawsuit.

"Different people suffered different damages," David Coles, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Thursday.

"Some people lost all their property, some people had their property saved to some extent and stored by the property management company, but then when they went to retrieve it, it couldn't be located. Different floors suffered alleged different problems with the alarm bell not working, or not being able to be heard."

Coles also regularly represents the CBC in court cases in the Maritimes.

The plaintiffs in the case currently include two insurance companies and 60 former tenants.

City, Halifax Water also named

The lawsuit alleges that the building's operator, Northview Apartment REIT, and owner, D.D. 81 Primrose Ltd., had heard several complaints about a tenant who was a careless smoker. The fire is believed to have started in the tenant's apartment and they were the lone fatality.

Northview was bought last year by Toronto-based Starlight Investments and an affiliate. Starlight's founder, Daniel Drimmer, is listed as the president of D.D. 81 Primrose Ltd.

The suit also names the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Halifax Water Commission as respondents.

"Both the fire department and the water commission are named for failures surrounding alleged not working of fire hydrants and also, in terms of the fire department, that its inspections, recommendations are alleged not to have been followed up on and implemented," Coles said.

According to the suit, when firefighters arrived on the scene, they were unable to get water from the first two hydrants they tried to tap into. One of the issues raised is whether more timely access to water might have reduced the size of the fire and the resulting damage and injuries.

At the time of the fire, the building was home to about 150 tenants. Coles said now that the suit is certified, there will be advertising to see if any more tenants wish to join in.

If the case goes to a hearing, it would be many months down the road. But Coles said there's always the possibility of a settlement before then.

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