Court orders first compensation payments to Zolitūde disaster victims

The Riga Regional Court today concluded review of the first in a series of lawsuits filed by victims of Zolitude tragedy, ordering Maxima Latvija and Homburg Zolitude to pay the plaintiffs a total of EUR 300,000 in compensation, LETA reported Monday.

The full ruling will be published on January 4 when the two companies will be able to appeal it.

Attorney Aldis Gobzems said previously that the judge presiding over the case was facing a historic choice - regardless of what she decided, the verdict would become important part of the history of law in Latvia.

The court has partly satisfied claims by Edgars Cernenoks and Valerija Mizula against Maxima Latvija and Homburg Zolitude. The companies will have to pay €75,000 to each plaintiff. The court turned down their claim against the company Tineo. The claim filed by a third plaintiff was turned down.

Attorney Aldis Gobzems told reporters that it was clear that the verdict would definitely be appealed as the compensation amounts were disproportionately small.

Janis Rozenbergs, attorney for Maxima, told LETA that he had yet to see the full verdict, but Maxima would file an appeal as the court had obviously not taken into consideration Maxima's arguments.

Rozenbergs said that, contrary to the court's opinion, Maxima could not be held responsible for the fire alarm that had went off several times the day the Maxima supermarket in Riga's Zolitude collapsed, as there were neither flames nor smoke, which is why customers were not told to evacuate.

Plaintiffs in the case initially asked that the court arrest Maxima Latvija's properties worth EUR 1 million.

Homburg Zolitude is the developer of the project and is owned by the Netherlands-based investment fund Homburg Eastern Europe Fund B.V. It owned the upper part of the roof in the supermarket, as well as an underground parking lot and a nearby apartment house.

54 people died and several dozen were injured as a Maxima supermarket in Riga's Zolitude neighborhood collapsed on November 21, 2013.

The Riga supermarket tragedy has become the largest loss of life since the restoration of independence in 1991.

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