A woman awoke in the early morning hours to a neighbor pounding on her door who was screaming “there is a fire you need to get out”. She jumped out of bed, grabbed her toddler and her 3 year old. She woke up her 6 year old and said follow me, we have to get out. She ran down the stairs from the 3rd floor to the sidewalk carrying the 2 younger children. When she got out of the building she put the kids down and she turned around only to discover that her 6 year old had not followed her. With the strength of a mother’s love for her child, she broke free from the grasp and ignored the warnings of her neighbors as she braved the fire and ran back to her 3rd floor apartment. Her son was petrified and frozen in the kitchen.
With the fire now engulfing the stairs she and her son were trapped. She did the first thing that came to her mind. She went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. That was the last thing she remembered. She turned on the shower because she knew that the fire department was on their way and she only needed to buy a little time. Unfortunately the ceiling collapsed because of the fire and she suffered severe third degree burns. Fortunately she survived. Unfortunately her son died several days later from smoke inhalation. His funeral was held while his mother was in a medically induced coma.
As it turned out the fire was started as the result of a dispute between a drug dealer and the very neighbor who knocked on the door alerting the family. If there was any good fortune in this most horrible circumstance she retained me, Larry Kramer of Kramer and Pollack, LLP to represent her. While comforting family members at the hospital burn center, the neighbor who knocked on her door arrived with a woman claiming to be a community activist. This “activist” was nothing more than a runner trying to steer the family to an attorney that she worked for! The family wisely and firmly declined the help offered by the activist and sent her on her way.
We set out to expose the fact that this horrible situation could have been avoided. In the end we successfully recovered the entire proceeds of her landlord’s insurance policy because we proved that he had the window child guards screwed into the window frame with tamper proof screws. Initially the insurance company took the position that the landlord was not responsible because the fire was started by a criminal act. In the end they acknowledged that the landlord had a responsibility to maintain a means of escape and that the landlord’s actions blocked the fire escape.