In May of 2019, six people—including four young children and their mother—were killed in a tragic fire in New York City. The deadly fire started on the fifth floor of a Harlem apartment building in the middle of the night. The building was owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).
According to a report from the New York Post, the agency is now facing a wrongful death lawsuit over the horrifying incident. Family members of the victims contend that the NYCHA’s negligence contributed to the heartbreaking loss of life.
Allegations: Nycha Apartment Building Lacked Basic Safety Features
A representative for the family argues that the fire, and the resulting injuries and fatalities, occurred solely because of the negligence of the New York City Housing Authority. Similar to all other landlords and property managers, the NYCHA has a legal responsibility to keep its premises in reasonably safe condition for tenants.
The wrongful death lawsuit, which was filed in a Manhattan court, lays out the case that innocent lives could have been saved if only the agency had lived up to its duties. Specifically, the wrongful death claim alleges the following four safety defects:
- The building did not have an adequate sprinkler system;
- The building did not have a proper fire escape;
- There was no working smoke detector in the kitchen; and
- There was no range hood over the stove.
Based on court documents, the New York Post reports that the investigators believe that the fire started in a kitchen within the building. While the building did have a fire escape, the plaintiffs claim that the escape was only accessible through the kitchen.
They believe that the NYCHA’s apartment building was fundamentally flawed and that the negligence put innocent people in harm’s way. They also note that other buildings owned and operated by the NYCHA have similar defects.
As for the smoke detector, it is not clear how many (if any) were in the building at all. Some reports state that the building may have been wholly without working smoke detectors. New York law is clear that working smoke detectors are a relatively basic safety feature. All large apartment buildings should have working smoke detectors.
For its part, a spokesperson for the NYCHA told reporters that the agency has a policy of declining to comment on any ongoing litigation. The wrongful death lawsuit and two other concurrent claims are still pending in New York court.
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At Richmond Vona, LLC, our wrongful death attorneys provide effective, compassionate, and reliable legal advocacy to people who lost family members due to negligence. To arrange a no-cost, completely confidential review of your wrongful death case, please contact our law firm today. We handle wrongful death claims throughout the entire region, including Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Getzville, Warsaw, Orchard Park, Batavia, Rochester, and beyond.