California Court of Appeal Rejects the City of Oakland’s Appeal and Allows Ghost Ship Plaintiffs’ Cases to Go Forward.

After two protracted hearings in the trial court and an appeal to the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Two, the Plaintiffs in the Oakland Ghost Ship fire tragedy of December 2, 2016 have successfully overcome the City of Oakland’s multiple attempts to dismiss their complaints.

In every lawsuit the defendant can file a responsive pleading called an Answer and simply deny the claims, or file a Demurrer and contest the legal sufficiency of the claims, asserting even if what the plaintiffs claim is true, there is no legal obligation on behalf of the defendant and the case lacks proper legal grounds.

In the Ghost Ship cases, stemming from the tragic fire of December 2, 2016 that cost 36 lives and injured others, survivors sued the City of Oakland alleging it breached its duties under the Oakland Municipal Code and California state law.  Judge Brad Seligman of the Alameda Superior Court found that the Plaintiffs made legally sufficient claims, met the pleading tests, and denied the City’s motions.  Judge Seligman ruled that the Plaintiffs properly asserted claims against the City for breach of mandatory duties and public entity immunities did not bar the claims.  A second complaint that dropped Alameda County as a party and narrowed the Plaintiff’s claims was filed and again the City filed its Demurrer. Again Judge Seligman ruled against the City.

Instead of simply going forward with discovery, the City filed a Writ to the Appellate court claiming Judge Seligman’s ruling was so far out of the norm, that the extraordinary relief of an immediate Writ to overturn the decision was necessary, or the City would suffer irreparable damage.  After full briefing in the Appellate court, on September 11, 2018, the Court of Appeal denied the City’s request.

Thomas Brandi and Brian J Malloy of The Brandi Law Firm have helped lead the fight for all of the Plaintiffs against the City of Oakland, writing the briefs and arguing on behalf of the families. The case is set for trial in Alameda County on October 8, 2019.