Settlement Reached In Austin Apartment Complex Fire
A confidential settlement has been reached in a case called the “deadliest fire in Austin’s history.” The suit was filed on the basis that a lack of fire safety devices seriously exacerbated the matter and resulted in severe injuries and deaths to residents. Faulty fire alarms and a lack of sprinkler systems were blamed for the blaze.
The apartments are part of a student enclave near the University of Texas. The fire was set by an arsonist, but residents of the facility said that their alarm systems never went off as the fire spread. Instead, they were awoken by the sounds of screams. Authorities have yet to identify a suspect in the case, but the investigation is ongoing. Five people died in the fire. Their deaths have been ruled homicides.
Understanding negligent security lawsuits
Negligent security lawsuits and premises liability are filed on a theory of negligence. In order for a proprietor or landlord to be responsible for the fire, the plaintiffs must prove that some failure or negligence either caused the fire or made the issue much worse. In this case, an arsonist set the fire. However, the issue was made worse by the failure of the smoke detection system to go off. In other words, people were awoken by the smell of smoke and the sounds of screams as opposed to their functioning fire detection system.
All cities have basic housing requirements and building codes that place specific duties on landlords. One of the most basic is the presence of smoke detectors. In this case, the smoke detection system didn’t work when it was needed most. The landlords would have been expected to repair the issue. Had the landlords even made the effort to repair the issue or promised to have the matter attended to within a week, then the plaintiff’s cause of action would have been clouded by whether or not the landlord was given enough time to remedy the issue. In terms of defective fire alarms, that should have been repaired ASAP.
Since the responsibility for the fire alarms falls on the landlord, the landlord is ultimately responsible for the deaths. A separate cause of action could have been filed against the company that designed the smoke alarms, but that avenue was likely explored and not pursued due to the lack of an actionable claim against the company.
Indeed, the arsonist is also liable for the 5 deaths and numerous injuries caused by the fire, but since we don’t know who the arsonist is, no one can file a lawsuit against them. It is rare that personal injury lawsuits are filed against criminal defendants because they simply end up bankrupted by the verdict.
Talk to a Houston Premises Liability Lawyer Today
The Houston personal injury attorneys at Livingston & Flowers litigate claims on behalf of injured tenants against negligent landlords. Call today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your situation in more detail.