Minneapolis Public Housing settles lawsuit for $1.5 million after high-rise fire killed 5

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority will pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit more than three years after a fire in one of its high-rise apartment buildings killed five people.

Families who lost loved ones in a November 2019 fire claimed the housing agency was negligent by not having adequate sprinklers or other fire suppression systems in the 26-story building on Cedar Avenue.

“While no amount of money will bring back the victims who needlessly perished in the fire, this settlement marks the end of the families’ years-long attempt to hold the wrongdoers accountable for what happened,” attorney Tariq Miller said in a statement to 5 INVESTIGATES. “The settlement is a testament to our clients’ unwavering resolve and determination to bring the truth to light and fight for justice on behalf of their loved ones.”

The families also sued a private company contracted to install the building’s fire alarm system. The judge ruled that the details of that settlement will remain confidential.

The state fire marshal reported that “no loss of life would have occurred” had the high-rise been retrofitted with fire sprinklers.

A year after the deadly blaze, 5 INVESTIGATES found the public housing agency had not yet committed to a long-term plan to install sprinkler systems in its tallest, most vulnerable apartment complexes.

RELATED: ‘Still Unprotected’: 1 year after deadly fire, public housing high-rises are without fire sprinklers

In 2021, state lawmakers mandated sprinkler systems for all public housing high-rise apartment buildings – but didn’t include any funding in the bill.

Last year, the federal government provided $2 million to the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, dedicated to installing sprinklers in high-rise apartment buildings.

In January, MPHA Executive Director Abdi Warsame was joined by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to tout funding increases. Warsame said the agency has installed fire sprinkler systems in 23 of its 42 high-rises – and work is underway in another 10 buildings.

“Back in 2020, we set an ambitious goal of having sprinklers installed in all our high-rise buildings within five years,” Warsame said. “And I’m happy to say the agency is on pace to meet that goal.”

Many of the MPHA buildings were constructed before housing codes required fire suppression systems.