Manager held liable for tenant’s death in villa fire

Defendant liable for causing fire by overloading power board after restructuring villa into smaller wooden units

Dubai: A manager has been handed suspended imprisonment after he was found guilty of causing the death of a tenant in a fire at a villa following an electrical short circuit.

The Indian manager was found to have restructured a villa in Al Rafaa and made smaller wooden compartments to accommodate many renters and overloaded the switchboard with poor and unsafe electrical installations, according to records, that was the fire’s main cause in April 2016.

The poorly maintained electrical installations and the overloaded switchboard triggered the fire that destroyed the villa’s first floor completely and most of the renters rushed out to safety except for an Indian tenant who died of burns.

The report of the Dubai Police’s medical examiner said a second tenant suffered burns and a fractured spine and leg after he fell from a steep height.

Primary police investigation revealed the involvement of the villa’s owner, an Emirati businessman, and the Indian manager, who was in charge of leasing and managing the property.

Prosecutors accused the Emirati businessman and the Indian manager of being liable for the victim’s accidental death and the other tenant’s injuries. According to the accusation sheet, the suspects failed to adhere to safety and precautionary standards when they leased the villa and they failed to provide proper and safe maintenance to the property.

Prosecutors said the suspects redesigned the villa by installing wooden frames inside and reconstructed the rooms into smaller wooden compartments to accommodate as many tenants as possible in an illegal and unsafe way.

Then the suspects congested the main switchboard with electrical installations and cable connections, according to the charge sheet, and due to overloading the electrical circuit, the switchboard was overheated resulting in the fire.

The suspect pleaded not guilty when they showed up before the Dubai Misdemeanours Court and denied being liable for the death.

The primary court convicted the Emirati and the Indian suspects of causing the accidental death and handed them a one-year suspended jail term. They were also ordered to pay Dh200,000 in blood money to the victim’s parents. The suspects were also fined Dh2,000 each.

The duo challenged the judgement before the Appeal Court and renewed their not guilty plea.

The Emirati businessman argued before the appellate court that he was not aware that the Indian suspect had restructured the villa in an illegal manner and crowded the property with tenants. He also contended that he was not responsible for the poor electrical maintenance, which he wasn’t aware of.

The Indian manager also pleaded not guilty.

The Appeal Court acquitted the Emirati and upheld the primary judgement against the Indian suspect.

The defendant appealed his appellate judgement before the Cassation Court where he pleaded not guilty and contended that he did not have any criminal intention.

Dubai’s highest court dismissed the Indian’s appeal and ordered him to pay Dh2,000 in fine and Dh200,000 in blood money to the victim’s family.

However, his one-year imprisonment remains suspended.

The ruling is final.

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