Pact to settle lawsuits in deadliest Las Vegas apartment fire

The scene of a fatal fire at the Alpine Motel in Las Vegas. Las Vegas Fire Rescue photograph.
The scene of a fatal fire at the Alpine Motel in Las Vegas. Las Vegas Fire Rescue photograph.(KOLO)
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 12:28 PM PST
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(AP) - A confidential settlement has been reached in civil negligence lawsuits arising from the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas history, a smoky blaze at a low-budget downtown apartment building in December 2019.

Court documents refer to funding but do not provide details of the pact, and attorneys declined Thursday to comment about what was termed a “global resolution” of lawsuits against former Alpine Motel Apartments owner Adolfo Orozco and a corporate ownership entity, Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC.

“At this time, neither my client nor I are in a position to comment on the settlement,” said Steven Jaffe, Orozco’s attorney in the cases filed in 2020 and 2021 and consolidated in Clark County District Court.

“My only comment would be that the parties look forward to the court’s approval,” said Robert Murdock, attorney for Deborah Cihal Crawford and lead lawyer for plaintiffs in the settlement.

Thirteen people were injured, five critically, including a pregnant woman who fell two stories while escaping the early morning fire at the 41-unit property near the downtown casino corridor. Fifty people were displaced.

The fire was traced to an unattended stove that may have been used for warmth on a cold winter night. Residents later complained the building lacked heat and inspectors reported finding 42 fire code violations including an exit door bolted shut, a faulty fire sprinkler system and missing or defective smoke detectors.

The fire spurred city officials to launch an inspection program focusing on aging multi-unit and extended-stay buildings converted from motels or hotels to apartments.

The pending settlement is referred to in a three-page document that Murdock filed Wednesday seeking approval from Judge Maria Gall. It involves civil cases alleging negligence by the owner of the former motel that had been converted to apartments. A date for approval was not immediately set.

The civil matter is separate from a criminal case pending against Orozco, who also used the name Adolfo Orozco Garcia, and former building manager Malinda Mier. They have remained free on bond, but could face decades in prison if they are convicted on 25 felony involuntary manslaughter and criminal neglect charges and one misdemeanor count of destroying or concealing evidence.

In recent days, Orozco and Mier have been in Las Vegas Justice Court for a preliminary hearing of evidence to determine if they will stand trial. The hearing is scheduled to continue March 27.

Orozco’s attorney in the criminal case, Dominic Gentile, said Thursday he did not know the terms of the civil settlement, but said his client had to contribute “personal assets” toward it.

The Alpine property has been rebuilt, rebranded and reopened recently under new ownership.

The fire was the deadliest in the Las Vegas area since November 1980, when 87 people died and more than 700 were injured in a spectacular blaze at the MGM Grand Hotel on the Strip. That hotel became Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino and was rebranded in December by owner Caesars Entertainment as the Horseshoe Las Vegas.

A fire three months later, in February 1981, killed eight people at the Hilton Hotel east of Las Vegas Boulevard. That hotel is now the Westgate.

Those fires led to upgraded safety standards, including requirements for fire sprinklers in high-rise buildings throughout the state.