A California house caught fire this week, killing two residents and seriously injuring a third. According to news reports, the house operated as a group home - 19 people were living there at the time. Authorities have now arrested one of the residents and accused him of intentionally starting the fatal blaze.
Even though the fire appears likely to have been deliberate, this does not mean that the group home or its owners did not do anything wrong. They could still be liable for the consequences of the fire in a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit.
While the law generally does not require anyone to prevent the criminal acts of another person, there are a number of factors in cases like this that might point to liability on the part of the group home.
To begin with, it appears that the house was only zoned as a single family residence. The home's operators could have made a fatal mistake by housing 19 people in the building - especially if they made money from the 19 residents. If fewer people had been living in the house, they all might have made it out alive. Additionally, the house may have lacked enough exits for everyone to escape in the case of a fire.
While it is not yet clear what happened, the fact that the fire involved a potential crime does not mean that the survivors and family members cannot hold the home accountable for creating dangerous conditions.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Man arrested during probe of deadly Pasadena fire," Nov. 2, 2012