A Vancouver woman is on the hook for more than half-a-million dollars after the Supreme Court of B.C. determined her negligent actions started a fire inside an apartment building over five years ago.
Angela Chou was renting a unit inside the Langara Gardens building in South Vancouver when, on Nov. 14, 2017, something made contact with the light bulb of a lamp in her living room and sparked a fire. Inspectors later described Chou’s apartment as in a “near hoarding state” and said it was likely a box or pillow case in the overstuffed unit that first became aflame.
Chou wasn’t in her living room when the fire started, and by the time she returned it was spreading fast. She said she and a neighbour tried to throw some water on it using a baby bath tub but quickly realized the flames were too out of control, and went to pull the fire alarm and evacuate instead. Chou’s unit, as well as ten neighbouring ones, were seriously damaged.
During the court proceedings, Chou’s legal team argued that the fire had been an unfortunate accident and that it wouldn’t have spread as far if Langara would have had a sprinkler system in place.
In his Jan. 12 ruling though, Justice Matthew Kirchner found the fact that Chou had turned on her halogen torch lamp with stacks of combustible belongings laid around and near the open top of it and then left the living room amounted to negligence. He added that the apartment building had been built around 1968 and, while sprinklers likely would have been helpful, they weren’t required by the owner.
Kirchner found Chou and her ex-husband Danny Chen, whose name was still on the lease, to be liable for Langara’s cost of repairs and its lost rental revenue. Unfortunately for the two, they were not carrying tenant insurance at the time of the fire.
In total, Chou and Chen were ordered to pay $56,000.46 in lost rental revenue and $512,995.04 for repairs.