The City of Montreal is currently dealing with two lawsuits in the aftermath of a fatal fire that took place in March in Old Montreal. One lawsuit has been filed by the family members of the victims, while the other has been filed by the building’s owner, Émile-Haim Benamor. Benamor’s lawsuit is seeking $7.5 million in damages and accuses the city of contributing to the severity of the fire by imposing strict restrictions on the building’s heritage construction. These restrictions made it impossible to make certain modifications or alterations, including replacing the building’s over 100-year-old wooden front door which did not meet contemporary fire safety standards. Benamor also claims that the city required him to permanently keep the door unlocked, which he believes facilitated the outbreak of the fire.
Furthermore, Benamor’s lawsuit alleges that he was forced to dismantle an emergency exit to the roof after being unable to modify a staircase according to city standards. The lawsuit also criticizes the city’s response to the fire, claiming that it failed to send enough firefighters to the scene. The lawsuit states that despite Benamor’s quick arrival and attempts to provide vital information about the possibility of people being trapped inside the building, his warnings were ignored.
Additionally, the family of one of the victims, Charlie Lacroix, has filed a lawsuit seeking $1.5 million in damages for negligence. The lawsuit accuses Benamor, Tariq Hasan (who was subletting the units online), and the City of Montreal of not taking appropriate action to address irregularities in the building and remove it from short-term rental platforms, despite regulations prohibiting such rentals.
Before the fire, the building had been flagged as a “fire trap” by concerned renters due to multiple fire safety violations, including a lack of smoke detectors and issues with the fire escape. The fire is currently under criminal investigation after traces of accelerant were found at the scene.
Both lawsuits are seeking compensation for the damages suffered, but these claims have not yet been tested in court. The City of Montreal has chosen not to comment on the case, and there have been no responses from Benamor’s lawyers or Tariq Hasan regarding the lawsuits.