OMAHA, Neb. — The city of Omaha could potentially face lawsuits from Old Market property and business owners after a fire broke out in one of the businesses housed in the building.

The city was notified this month by the property and business owners that they suffered losses in the fire that broke out January 2016 at the historic M’s Pub. Records with the City Clerk’s Office say 11 notices have been filed with the city, with proposed claims totaling more than $11.5 million.

The dispute that could decide if the city gets sued centers on whether or not a car was parked in a metered spot over a utility cover outside the pub, delaying emergency response to the blaze, the Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/2j4XS9y ) reported. The claims, as well as M’s Pub attorney Richard DeWitt, said the city shouldn’t have permitted parking over a utility cover.

“The City of Omaha owed a duty to Claimants not to deny, hinder or delay visibility or access to the shutoff valve either by itself or by allowing others to do so,” DeWitt wrote.

The Nebraska Fire Marshal’s Office released a report last month saying that there wasn’t a car parked over the utility cover at the time of the blaze. But the Metropolitan Utilities District responded by citing a car parked over the cover, saying workers couldn’t immediately shut off the gas because of the car.

“I don’t see it being successful,” Omaha City Attorney Paul Kratz said, referring to the car-related claims. “The marshal was right.”

Old Market property and business owners must now wait a maximum of six months before receiving a response from the city.

The fire at M’s Pub was fed by natural gas lines operated by MUD, which is a separate from the city of Omaha.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com