Apartment Complex Sued After Deadly Fire
A lawsuit has been filed against an apartment complex owner after a fatal fire took the life of one of the residents. The resident’s daughter has filed the lawsuit as the executor of her father’s estate. The complaint lists several allegations of negligence against the apartment complex owner including a failure to abide by building code regulations, a failure to provide adequate fire suppression devices, and a failure to perform fire safety inspections. Residents said that fire alarms would go off all the time without reason. They said there were no working smoke detectors or sprinklers in the facility.
The 67-year-old man was found dead in his apartment by firefighters. The official cause of death was smoke inhalation. An investigation ruled that the cause of the fire was careless smoking. Two dogs also died in the fire. Several residents received treatment for smoke inhalation at the scene.
Landlord liability in fire lawsuits
Landlords are generally liable when a building catches fire and there are several building code violations that could have prevented it from getting that bad. Unless it was the victim who started the fire with his lit cigarette, the landlord does not have much of a defense. In a lot of these cases, the landlord can face charges related to the death and any injuries that ensue. After a death occurs, the city often investigates the matter, determines what violations were present, and at least fines the landlord for those violations. It doesn’t appear that’s happened.
Even if the victim started the fire, the presence of persistent safety violations indicates that the damage the fire caused could have been severely reduced had a functional fire suppression system been in place. So, even if the victim started the fire accidentally, he would still have grounds to file a lawsuit in most states.
The landlord is probably not facing charges because it was a tenant who started the fire, according to the investigation. This is only a matter of luck. Had the fire started due to an electrical problem or a maintenance issue, then the landlord would almost certainly be held criminally liable.
Nonetheless, the broken fire suppression system is enough to win this wrongful death lawsuit and hold the landlord accountable for their negligence.
Defenses to these allegations
The landlord will investigate the possibility that the victim’s cigarette caused the fire. If so, this may reduce their liability to the victim. In a case like this, a determination would be made as to who contributed the most fault. If a jury returns a 50/50 split, the plaintiff would be entitled to recover 50% of their total damages. That would be a win for the landlord in a case like this. Otherwise, they will be held 100% liable.
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