Villaggio fire victims’ families file lawsuits against F+A Architects

The families of those deceased during the 2012 Villaggio fire incident in Qatar have filed lawsuits against the mall’s architects, developers and consultants, besides other companies based in the USA and Qatar.

The civil suits were filed on Thursday, May 28 – exactly three years after the blaze – with Qatar’s court of first instance and with the Los Angeles Superior Court in California, Doha News reported.

The fire had caused the deaths of 19 people by smoke asphyxiation, including the children who were trapped in a day-care outlet at the time, four nursery staff and two firefighters who tried to rescue them.

The US lawsuit argues that the companies being sued “engaged in wilful, wanton and reckless disregard” for the lives and safety of those who died in the fire.

It alleges wrongful death, negligence, survival action for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress on behalf of some of the families of the victims who died.

The documents do not specify the monetary amount that the families are suing for, but calls on the firms to pay for general and punitive damages, the report added.

The California lawsuit names three defendants: F+A Architects, a Pasadena-based company that designed Villaggio; Business Trading Company (BTC), a Qatar firm that developed and managed the mall operations; and White Young Qatar, described as the project manager and contributing architect and engineer for the mall.

“The fire was a result of numerous fatal mistakes on the part of the defendants,” the suit states.

It adds that “the fire and the resulting deaths were, by all accounts, preventable”, saying the fire control and suppression systems designed by F+A and White Young “wholly failed” during the incident.

Other issues within the mall also hindered rescue operations, the lawsuit said:

“The fans that were intended to remove smoke in the event of a fire instead forced smoke back into the mall. The fire alarms selected by the designers were inaudible or sounded like a faint doorbell. The smoke vents did not function properly, if at all. The sprinkler system failed. The fire hoses in the mall were too short to reach the sporting goods store and Gympanzee (the day-care centre). The fire soon raged out of control and poisonous smoke permeated the mall.”

The lack of a mall map also delayed fire crews when they attempted to cut through the roof of the mall to try to rescue the trapped children, the lawsuit states.

When responders finally gained access to the mall and nursery, they were too late to save the victims.