George A. LaMarca’s Media Comments

George A. LaMarca is often asked to comment on significant fire and explosion cases in the greater Des Moines metro area and around the State of Iowa. Here are some excerpts from three different Des Moines Register articles concerning both the Younker’s department store at Merle Hay Mall and the former downtown Younker’s store under rehabilitation at 7th and Walnut.

Re: Younker’s Merle Hay Mall Fire (Merle Hay Road and Douglas Avenue)

“…surprised that he [Fire Chief Williams] made the statement that there was no gross negligence. His investigation did not include an examination of the maintenance or repair history of either the heating or cooling systems, nor was he certain who was responsible for the maintenance of either….He also admitted to me that a determination of gross negligence is for civil authorities to determine, and he said his investigation did not go into the responsibility of persons for the prevention of those conditions which were likely to cause the fire.”

“I think he [Deputy Commissioner of Labor Walter Johnson] should look at the [OSHA] fire code in light of human safety and frailty, which is its purpose. The code was either violated or it was not. There is no room for compromise. Did he expect the elderly women who were trapped to hurl their bodies through the tempered glass?”

“…very thankful for the extremely attentive and diligent jury….[The verdict] was most gratifying because we were only permitted to present the tip of the iceberg concerning PVC. We really had our hands tied behind our backs.”

“…[If all the damaging information about PVC had been allowed] the defendants thought it would be extremely prejudicial. We didn’t want a split trial. We wanted the whole story to come out in one trial.”

“It was one of the largest scientific battles of the decade. This is where the country-wide battle over PVC was fought. There have been a number of fires around the country where PVC was alleged to have been the cause. But this is the first time there has been an actual jury verdict. (04/18/86)

Re: Younker’s Downtown Fire (7th and Walnut)

“In a case like the building downtown, you want to look at what stage the construction was in at the time of the fire. What are the ignition sources? What’s curious is what is highly combustible in this building? You don’t have finished floors or carpet. It wouldn’t seem like you would have a lot of ignition sources. (03/04/14)

“Even if the construction site met and followed all of the Des Moines’ building codes, they could still be found liable for damages at a trial. Following a municipal ordinance is the minimum standard of care. There are circumstances where more is required, and the law then imposes a higher standard of care on the owner of a property.” (03/12/14)

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