How Real Estate Law Can Affect a Case of Involuntary Manslaughter

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on March 5, 2014

These are the stories I live for when it comes to real estate law. They’re nevertheless unfortunate, affording condolences for the parties involved, but in the case of law, no better analysis can be generated in really digging into the law, the very core of logic as to the how, why and what must happen in a case. The news there in California recently did present a story about an architect, Gerhard Becker, who was tried and convicted for involuntary manslaughter, sentenced to one year in jail and three years of probation.firefighter

Was this man Becker a criminal? Not necessarily. In fact, this really had nothing to do with criminal law, per se, except for the fact that a firefighter died due to ceiling collapse. You’re probably wondering where the rub is in this story. This comes with the territory, actually, right? Firefighters deal with this everyday. The amazing thing about this story is the fact that the home in question where the ceiling collapsed was, in fact, built by that architect: Gerhard Becker.

Let’s now connect the dots. Apparently, an investigation determined that the German architect had installed, before the fire ever began, a “substandard natural gas fireplace.” It was that choice, causing the fire. Moreover, the fireplace included what was commonly known as an “outdoor firepit,” something not ever used indoors – and to make it worse, the installation included a wood-drywall frame, not something fireproof within brick or metal boxes. Furthermore, the setup provided a mere 18 inches of clearance compared to the standard 8 feet necessary by firepit manufacturers, plus firebreaks, which the installation also lacked.

What’s the result? A pretty nasty fire. To make it worse, the ceiling collapsed due to the fire ultimately caused by the architect, causing the death of a firefighter. You can, therefore, see how the charge came to be: involuntary manslaughter. Real estate law can be quite interesting!

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