Lacrosse apartment fire builder escapes liability

The 2014 Lacrosse apartment tower fire was a shock in the building community, as flames took over the flammable cladding on the building. Whilst thankfully no one was hurt in the Lacrosse apartment incident, the 2017 Grenfell tower tragedy in the UK shows how things could have gone otherwise. There were 72 deaths in the Grenfell tragedy. The fire had unfortunately started as a result of an electrical fault in a refrigerator. Similarly, the Lacrosse fire also started by accident. On the 24th November, a cigarette started a fire on the balcony of apartment 805 after it was left in a plastic container. Now a court case involving the builders behind the Lacrosse tower, LU Simon, has ruled they were liable for the result of the fire and its spread. 

In a tense and drawn out case victims of the fire were awarded $5.7 million in damages. The amount was to come from those deemed responsible for the fire: mainly the architect, the employer and their building surveyor and fire engineer, as well as the resident who started the fire. 

Now the court case has ended in the Supreme Court of Victoria Court of Appeal, who have dismissed the appeal against this decision from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in 2019. This means the builder responsible for the construction of the building, LU Simon, will not be liable for the damages to be paid. However, they will still be liable for 3 percent of the damages to be paid on behalf of the resident who caused the fire. 

The fire started in the early hours of the morning at the Lacrosse building in the Melbourne Docklands. After beginning on the 8th floor it proceeded to climb rapidly up 13 stories to the 21st floor over a 12 minute period, using the balconies to travel upwards at great speed. The fire is claimed to have spread so quickly due to the flammable cladding used on its outer layers.

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