A mother of 3 fell asleep, on the living room couch, with her infant in her arms. Her 2 other elementary school age children went to sleep in their room. While she slept, in the early morning hours, her 6 year old son played with either a lighter or matches. As a result the couch cought on fire. The son, petrified, ran back to his room. It did not take long for the fire to engulf the sofa and spread to the entire room. The mom woke up to a couch that was on fire and a home filled with smoke. She could not see anything (because of the smoke), but she could hear a neighbor yelling from the other side of the door. She was able to feel around through the smoke and get to the door. Unfortunately she was unable to open the door. As she made her way to the back of the apartment she was overcome by smoke. She passed out due to smoke inhalation. She was found by the fire department unconscious, near the childrens’ bedroom. She was hospitalized for 2 months during which time she was placed in a medically induced coma. She suffered 3rd degree burns that were treated but the reason for the lengthy hospital stay was the fact that she suffered from smoke inhalation. The infant that she was sleeping with on the couch did not survive.
Now at first glance you might think that the landlord could not possibly have any responsibility because the fire was started by a child playing with matches or a lighter. We (Kramer & Pollack, LLP) thouroughly investigated the case and we were left with some very pointed questions. Where did the matches or lighter come from? Why couldn’t the mother get out the side door? Well, the stove in the apartment would not light without using matches or a lighter. She could not open the door because months prior to the fire someone had attempted to break into the apartment through the side door. They did not break in, but they did break the lock. The mother had complained to the landlord that the stove did not work properly and that the door was inoperable. If the stove worked properly there would be not need for a lighter or matches. If the woman were able to open the side door escape would have been possible.
You can only imagine the sadness and grief not to mention the pain and suffering that the mom has endured. Even more compelling is the guilt that her son will contend with for the rest of his life.