Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Qatar mall fire ignites liability questions

Pennsylvania residents may be interested in questions sparked by a mall fire in Qatar that tragically killed 19 people - 13 of them children in a daycare facility. The incident is creating quite an investigation, as officials seek to find who is responsible for the millions of dollars in damage and loss of life. Arrest orders have been issued for the owner of the mall as well as four other accomplices. Also under arrest is the owner of the daycare facility, where four workers and the 13 children died.

The fire investigation has already unveiled many safety features that were not working properly or had never been installed. For example, mall sprinkler systems failed to work, and there were no blueprints available for rescue workers. Police are searching to identify who failed to do their job correctly. The families of the victims want all parties responsible to pay for their emotional and financial hardships (in the U.S., they could do this through a premises liability lawsuit).

The fire has sparked conversation throughout the United States as well. In a country where just about every city has at least one mall, the question of who is to blame for an incident at a multiple-owner complex like a mall can lead investigators in many confusing directions.

Is it the mall manager who has let safety measures lapse? Does responsibility fall completely on the store where the fire began? Can liability fall on several parties?

In the U.S., there are very stringent guidelines that malls must meet in order to remain in operation, as well as inspections. However, it is not uncommon for a sprinkling system to malfunction or other problems to occur. What happened in Qatar may not happen in the U.S., but people can still be injured and killed by the inaction or improper action of mall owners and others. Qatar's sad story is a reminder to premises owners to keep their premises in good condition and prevent serious injury.

Source: The Star Tribune, "Qatar orders arrests as investigations widen into deadly mall blaze," Associated Press, May 29, 2012

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