The Upstairs Lounge Fire


Lawsuits Filed Against City and Bar Owner

Upstairs Is Hit By Biggest Suit

$13.9 Million Sought for Deaths by Fire

The latest and largest suit resulting from the Up Stairs Lounge fire was filed in Civil District Court Wednesday.

The suit, instituted by relatives of a mother and her two sons who died June 24, 1973, in the bar at 604 Iberville, seeks a total of $13.9 million.

The suit alleges the city “failed to inspect this bar for a period of in excess of two years, or even make token inspections.

“Further, the City of New Orleans has instructed the Fire Department to refuse to release any information in the matter, and has referred everything to the city attorney.

Plaintiffs and amounts sought are: Robbert Warren, $6,350,000, for the death of this mother Willie Inez Warren, and his brothers, Eddie Hose Warren and James Curtis Warren plus $2,450,000 for surviving brothers and sisters; Fay Warren, $3 million, for the loss of her husband, James Curtis Warren; and Michael C. Warren, $2.1 million, for the loss of his father, James Curtis Warren.

 Named as defendants were Anthony and Florence Guarino of 4605 Elysian Fields, said to be owners of the building at the time of the fire; lounge operation Phillip J. Esteve, of 1424 Thalia; State Fire Marshal Raymond B. Oliver; New Orleans Fire Supt. William J. McCrossen; City Director of Fire Prevention David Fontaine, Jr.; Louisiana Rating and Fire Prevention Bureau, Vieux Carre Commission, the city and state and three insurance companies.

The suit charges defendants were negligent in failing to maintain a safe building “in spite of actual knowledge the building was a fire trap, with steel bars on windows, and they to provide a reasonable escape route...”

It claims the building and business were operated in “gross disregard of safety standards and regulations, by failing to provide adequate means of emergency exits, and in furnishing the premises with highly flammable materials, and failure to provide adequate means of ingress and egress.”

The suit alleges the governmental agencies and employees were negligent by failing to make timely inspections  and

Bar Fire Suit Is Charging 11

Out-of-State Group Asks for $2.6 Million

Asking $2.6 million in damages, a group of out-of-state residents whose relatives were burned or died in the June 24, 1973 fire in the Upstairs Lounge in the French Quarter filed suit in Civil District Court against 11 defendants.

The suit is based upon several personal injuries to Edward B. Gillis and fatal injuries Joseph H. Adams, Jr., George Steven Matyi, and David Gary, patrons of the bar at 604 Iberville, it said.

Damages sought are $100,000 for Mrs. Jean Adams Jordon; $100,000 for Marilyn Adams West and $100,000 for Miss Nancy Ann Adams, sisters of Joseph H. Adams; $500,000 for Tina Matyi and $500,000 for Todd Matyi, youngsters of George Matyi; $1 million for Edward B. Gillis; $150,000 for Becky Gary and $150,000 for Elwyn R. Gary, Jr., parents of David S. Gary.

Defendants includes Anthony and Florence Guarino, owners of the building; lounge operator Phillip J. Esteve; State Fire Marshal Raymond B. Oliver; Louisiana Rating and Fire Prevention Bureau; the Vieux Carre Commisison;  three insurance companies; and the city and state.

The suit alleges the owners were negligent in failing to properly maintain the building and failure to provide adequate emergency exits.

The petitions charge the city and state agencies were negligent in failing to discover and correct recognized fire hazards as well as failing to make proper inspections of the building.

The suit said Edward Gillis was permanently disabled.

 Upstairs Suit at $1.1 Million

The family of Gerald Gordon, a victim of the 1973 Upstairs Lounge Fire, filed suit in Civil District Court for $1,103,000.

Defendants are lounge owner Phillip J. Esteve, building owners Florence and Anthony Guarino and a number of city and state officials and insurance companies.

The suit charges the fire at 604 Iberville was a result of negligence in defendants’ failure to maintain the building, provide adequate and safe emergency exits and comply with fire and safety codes.

The fire occurred on June 24, 1973, and ordinarily there is a deadline of one year to file suit in such a case, but the petition said a resolution of the Legislature authorizes institution of suit before the end of 1974.

A number of lawsuits to recover damages are filed by families of the deceased as well as survivors of the fire.
Source: The Times-Picayune, June 20, 1974; July 11, 1974; and December 25, 1974.
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