Weitz & Luxenberg filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court Bronx County earlier this month. It was started on behalf of six families whose loved ones died trying to escape a five-alarm fire in a Bronx apartment building in early January, 2022.
Weitz & Luxenberg is serving as co-counsel with Ben Crump Law PLLC of Tallahassee, Florida. The families named in the suit retained Ben Crump Law, which then chose Weitz & Luxenberg to act as counsel in the New York courts. W&L Trial Counsel Larry Goldhirsch, who filed the initial complaint, has been with our firm for decades and has experience in personal injury work for over 50 years.
Defendants’ Negligence Plays Key Role in Catastrophe
The legal complaint names five defendants: Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC, Bronx Phase III Housing Company, Inc., Lich Investment Group, Belverson Partners Fund V LP, and Belverson Partners Fund V Venture LP.
The suit alleges “it was the duty of Defendants to maintain the subject premises in a reasonably safe condition.” The fire destroyed part of the 19-story, 120-unit building and its property.
Poor Building Maintenance Costs Lives
It is alleged that the building’s door springs were not in working order when the fire occurred and some inoperable windows prevented residents from getting away from the deadly smoke. These violations will be presented to the court as the litigation moves forward.
According to multiple news reports, a malfunctioning electric space heater was the cause of the fire. But it wasn’t the fire itself that claimed the lives of residents, it was the smoke. No one appeared to have died from the flames.
Malfunctioning interior doors, in failing to close as they were designed to do, allowed thick, black smoke and toxic fumes to spread throughout the stairwells and into all the corridors.
Firefighters had to work to save the people trapped on every floor in the building. Many tenants were injured from inhaling noxious smoke fumes.
Some surviving residents have been allowed to return to undamaged apartment units. Others have been forced to find temporary living quarters.
Wrongful Death Suits Filed
Sadly, the fire killed 17 people and injured dozens. According to the New York City Medical Examiner, all of the victims died from smoke inhalation. Survivors sustained severe injuries and many were traumatized by the incident.
In the suit W&L filed, our clients allege their injuries “were caused by the negligence of the Defendants and their agents, servants, employees and/or licensees in the ownership, management, possession, operation, maintenance, and control of the premises.”
Family members who lost loved ones to the fire are pursuing damages for wrongful death.
Because so many lives were lost, investigation by the New York City Fire Department into culpability continues. By some accounts, the buildings’ owners were informed of safety violations months ago, yet chose to ignore these notifications.
In addition to malfunctioning doors and windows, the building itself may have been in violation of other safety codes. For example, some are asking why portable electric space heaters were needed in the first place, and the functioning of the alarm system is being looked into as well.
Safety Violations May Have Led to Multiple Deaths
According to multiple accounts, the fire started a floor or two above ground level in a duplex apartment. The people living there are thought to have left their front door open when they fled the building and, although the door was equipped with spring loaded hinges which were supposed to shut the door automatically, they appeared not to have worked.
On the 15th floor, another door seems to have been left open in a stairwell. These open doors, which pulled the smoke upward and through the building, should have self-closed.
If they had, it is probable the spreading smoke might have been contained. What remains unclear is whether the doors failed mechanically or if someone had manually disabled them prior to the fire.
Everyone Deserves Justice
Mr. Goldhirsch, and the other attorneys at W&L, believe everyone has a right to justice. People who are injured due to the negligent actions, or inactions, of others deserve compensation for their pain and suffering and for the death of a loved one.
All too often, people without sufficient resources suffer at the hands of corporations more interested in profit than people. W&L attorneys are proud to strive to assist victims of corporate greed in this case, and every day.