Edward Norton's Production Company Sued Over Harlem Movie Set Fire

A man and woman who live in the building claim residents weren't warned by producers when a fire started during filming of 'Motherless Brooklyn.'
Dennis Van Tine/Abaca/Sipa USA/AP Images

Edward Norton's production company is being sued by residents of the Harlem building that burned Thursday night during filming of Motherless Brooklyn. The lawsuit was filed the same day a funeral was held to remember the firefighter who died while battling the five-alarm blaze. 

Erica and George Cruz, who lease a fourth-floor apartment in the Nichols Avenue building, on Tuesday sued Class 5 Films and the property's owner for $7 million each. They claim the production company kept highly flammable equipment in the building's basement and the fire was caused by recklessness, carelessness and negligence.

"When representatives of Class 5, Inc. became aware of the fire, they did not warn the tenants in the building," states the complaint. "[I]n fact, they misled the tenants into believing there had been a fire that had been extinguished."

The Cruzes claim the building wasn't safe, wasn't clean and didn't have fire extinguishers, working smoke detectors or proper lighting in the stairwells.

Erica Cruz claims the fire aggravated her asthma and having to "run for her life down several sets of dark stairs engulfed in smoke" caused here severe emotional distress. Both Erica and Georg Cruz claim they lost valuable property and the ability to live in the rent-controlled apartment. (Read the full complaint, below.)

Norton, who is directing Motherless Brooklyn, on Saturday issued a lengthy statement on social media, describing the fire as a dramatic and tragic event, but disputing that it started on the film's set. "We were filming in a bar and an apartment within the building and our crew noticed smoke rising up into where we were working," he explained. "Had our team not noticed the situation and responded and alerted the fire department with the speed they did, I believe the residents of the building above would have perished."

Norton also commended the bravery of the FDNY firefighters, including 37-year-old Michael R. Davidson, who died after suffering severe smoke inhalation, according to officials. "I’m in awe of that kind of selfless courage," he wrote. "It’s devastating to contemplate that one of the men we watched charging in there lost his life."

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