- Injuries: Severe Burns, Permanent Scarring & Psychological Issues
- Amount of Settlement: $450,000.00
- Special Damages: Mother #1: $49,694.92 (Medical), Mother #2: $11,130.39 (Medical)
- Date: March, 2008
- Personal Injury
There was a structure fire that occurred in the early morning hours of August 2, 2004 at a two family house where two families were living as tenants. The premises contained only one inoperable smoke detector. It was located on the first floor near the front door and the hallway adjoining the kitchen. There were no fire detectors on the second or third (attic) floors. At no time during the two families’ tenancy did the owners of the property test or otherwise maintain the sole fire detector. On or about July 30, 2004, the premises was the subject of a home invasion in which two men entered the premises and attempted to steal anything of value. A vehicle parked outside the premises was vandalized as well. The men warned the families residing at the home that they would return. As a result of this event, the residents were fearful of sleeping on the first floor of the premises, sleeping instead on the second and third (attic) floors. They posted sentries from among their number to keep watch. At approximately 1:00am, one of the older children posted as a lookout, observed two individuals running down the street and then saw that the porch area of the first floor was engulfed in flames. As most of the other residents were asleep, he scrambled to awaken everyone. As he did, the single smoke detector on the first floor reportedly remained silent. The fire quickly spread. Two of the children were able to escape through the kitchen exit on the first floor. As the rest of the residents were descending the stairs, the flames rapidly swept up the stairway cutting off any hope of easy escape. The residents retreated back up to the second floor. One of the mothers, pregnant at the time, jumped out of a side window on the second floor. The remainder of the residents were forced of leap from the second story balcony. The premises was subsequently consumed in flames and was later condemned as a total loss.
Several of the residents including the two mothers sustained serious injuries including severe burns and permanent scarring over large areas of their bodies, requiring extensive physical and psychological treatment. The two young mothers experienced the nightmarish trauma of the fire, sustained vicious burns, endured extensive medical treatment, and are now saddled with permanent scarring which brutally marred their physical appearance and adversely affects their psychological and emotional well being. They also continue to suffer from chronic pain, soreness and limited movement resulting from their injuries. Negotiations were difficult given the defense issues presented including: 1) whether the owner/landlord was responsible for the resulting injuries sustained in the fire caused by third party tortfeasors (alleged superseding intervening cause); 2) whether the subject property was in accordance with the Commonwealth’s Building Code when the two mothers were claiming there was only one allegedly inoperable smoke detector on the first floor; 3) that the landlord had an approximately eight year old certificate stating the property was up to code. The case settled for $450,000.00 after mediation despite the liability issues and having had no prior offers of settlement.