Lawsuit Filed in Fatal Limo Fire
The families of five nurses killed in a limo fire on a San Francisco bridge have filed suit against several companies they claim were negligent in the tragedy. The limo was en route to the Crowne Plaza Hotel from Oakland, where those who died and four others were to attend a "girl's night out" in honor of the impending wedding of one of the passengers.
Neriza Fojas, who was 31, married her husband in a civil service in 2012, but the couple planned a larger ceremony in Fojas' native Philippines in June. Her friends planned the night out in celebration of her impending wedding. The women were opening gifts in the limo, and one of the women had opened a bottle of champagne when Amalia Loyola saw smoke seeping through the floor. As the passenger compartment grew warmer, Nelia Arellano knocked on the partition, telling the driver, Orville Brown, that there was smoke in the limo. Allegedly, the driver told Arellano that smoking was not allowed, and it took several minutes for the women to get Brown to understand and pull over.
The rear right door was blocked due to fire and smoke, blocking escape. According to the women, the left rear door had the child protection lock engaged, keeping them from opening it and escaping. The only means of escape was through the small partition between the driver's seat and the rear of the limo. Four women escaped, but the bride, Fojas, along with her friends, Felomina Geronga, Michelle Estrera, Jennifer Balon and Anna Alcantara, were pronounced dead at the scene. Their bodies were burned beyond recognition and dental records were used to identify them. Autopsy results revealed that the women died of smoke inhalation and that death was "near instant."
Ruled an Accident
In August, the fire was ruled an accident by the California Highway Patrol and San Mateo Police, and no charges were filed against the limo driver. However, the limo company was fined $7,500 for failure to operate the limo safely, as there were two more passengers in the vehicle than was legal. However, the extra passengers did not play a part in the fire. The cause, according to sources, started when an air spring in the rear of the vehicle broke, causing the limo to ride lower than normal. This supports witness reports that the rear bumper of the limo appeared closer to the road than it should have been. Experts claim that the limo was probably bouncing more than normal, and it may have struck the roadway, causing sparks that ignited the gas tank, or creating friction that led to carpet and foam to ignite on the floorboard of the vehicle.
The lawsuit names Limo Stop Inc., Ford Motor Co., Bay Area Limousine Repair Inc., Accubuilt Inc., Accubuilt Acquisition Holdings Inc., and DaBryan Coach Builders, who either owned, built, maintained or customized the vehicle. The families claim that design and manufacturing defects led to the tragic fire in the 1999 Lincoln Town Car.
When a vehicle defect is suspected as the cause or a contributing factor in an accident that causes injury or death, a wrongful death lawsuit may be in order. Contact Dallas-Fort Worth lawyers at Frenkel & Frenkel to schedule a free initial consultation regarding an injury that may have been caused or worsened by a vehicle defect.