Fire victims sue owners of Umiaq Apartments
A family of arson victims has filed suit seeking a minimum of $100,000 in state Superior Court, Second District, against Bering Straits Native Corp. and Kandie Allen.
The complaint stems from a fire at Umiaq Apartments, owned by BSNC, on Sept. 26, 2014, which destroyed the Dixons’ apartment and two others, with damage to the eight-plex placed at excess of $700,000, according to Brian Stockman, BSNC property manager.
Kandie Allen, employed as caretaker by BSNC, pleaded guilty to Assault in the 4th Degree—Recklessly Injure and Arson 2—damage building with intent, a Class C Felony for setting the fire in her apartment directly below the Dixons’ apartment. Allen had been convicted and sentenced stemming from a previous fire in the same building occurring June 19, 2014.
The lawsuit alleges “plaintiffs sustained damages, including but not limited to bodily injury, smoke inhalation, emotional distress, loss of all their personal property, loss of enjoyment of life, and inconvenience,” according to documents filed Jan. 27 in state Superior Court, Second District.
The Dixon family are Preston and Sophia Dixon and their young biological children Connor Kakoona, Brennan Kakoona and Alayniya Dixon. The Dixons are seeking compensatory damages against the defendants in the amount to be proven at a jury trial, but in excess of $100,000.; attorney fees, costs, and interest incurred in litigation, and for all other relief the court deems just and equitable, according to court documents. Additionally, the Dixons are seeking enhancement on the award of attorneys’ fees based on their status as crime victims according to Alaska law.
Alaska Statute 09.60.070 says a person may recover attorney’s fees in a civil or wrongful death action if the injury, damage or death results from the “commission or attempt on the part of the offender to commit a serious criminal offense.” The statute lists serious offenses, which include arson in any degree.
The Dixons lost everything in the fire, which destroyed the apartment in which they resided. The children’s puppy died in the fire.
The suit alleges BSNC continued to employ Allen as caretaker of the apartment complex, “notwithstanding Ms. Allen’s propensity to start fires,” and cited the June 19, 2014 fires in Allen’s apartment bedroom and bathroom as an example. Allen was convicted and sentenced on reckless endangerment in that fire. Her blood alcohol was 0.225 that night, according to court documents.
BSNC knew or should have known because of her propensity to start fires, possible emotional issues and heavy drinking, that continuing to employ Allen as resident caretaker in an apartment building housing families with small children breached a duty of reasonable care and was reckless, the complaint says.
Angstman Law Office of Bethel is representing the Dixons.
When Allen started the fire on Sept. 26, 2014, Preston Dixon and the three children and a family friend were at home; Sophia Dixon was at work. Dixon and friend Paul Nayokpuk grabbed the children and exited down a stairwell filled with smoke, escaping shoeless, with only the clothes they were wearing, according to court documents and according to comment by Preston Dixon following the fire.
Allen was intoxicated on the night of Sept. 26, court records say.
Allen has served jail time and is no longer in custody.
Dixons are alleging negligence and recklessness against BSNC, and negligence and recklessness against Allen.
The Dixons filed a peremptory challenge to the assignment of Judge Tim Dooley in the case. On Feb. 1, Judge Paul A. Roetman of Kotzebue was assigned. On Tuesday, Feb. 2, neither Allen nor BSNC had filed a response.