68-year-old art collector Todd Brassner lost his life in the fire that broke out in Trump Tower April 7, 2018. The building had smoke detectors and alarms, to which NYFD quickly responded. Unfortunately, though, it did not have fire sprinklers, thanks to Trump and other high profile developers in 1998. At the time, Trump played a crucial roll in lobbying against a law proposed by Mayor Giuliani requiring residential buildings to retro-fit sprinklers. Such safety measures would be costly for him to take. Fire safety experts have since suggested that a sprinkler system could have been the difference between life and death for Mr. Brassner.
Brassner’s death comes in the wake of the deadliest fire the city has seen in 25 years, which took 13 lives this passed December in the Bronx. The residences of the apartment in which the fire started were able to escape. However, in their panic they did not close the hall door. The building’s hall way and stairwell acted like a chimney, allowing the fire to quickly reach other units. Law requires all multiple dwellings with more than three apartments to have self-closing doors, which can stop the spread of flames for up to 90 minutes. Investigators could not tell if proper doors were installed, due to the damage caused by the fire. However, it is likely they were not, considering the destruction cause by the fire.
What is a Premise Liability?
Premise liability requires a building owner to keep the building reasonably safe. Laws are in place that sets a level of safety the owner must maintain. To win a premise liability case one must prove they were injured because the owner did not keep the premise reasonably safe. Keeping a premise reasonably safe includes taking measures like installing self-closing hall doors.
Additionally, you must prove that the owner was, or should have been, aware of the dangerous condition before the accident. The owner must also have a “reasonable” opportunity to fix the problem before you were hurt. This requirement, the notice requirement, gives rise to much of the litigation in this area of the law. You cannot win your case if you cannot prove notice was given and there was reasonable time to fix the problem before your injury occurred.
How to Prove Notice…
To prove notice in a premises liability case, you must show that:
- the owner actually knew about the problem before the incident, and failed to correct it; or
- the owner should have known about the problem, because it was present for a long period of time, and did not fix it; or
- the owner caused or created the problem.
An owner’s conduct does not necessarily cause or create an incident like a building fire. In the case of the Bronx fire, a young boy was playing with the stove. However, the owner may still be held responsible. If investigators prove self closing doors were not installed in the BX, the building the owner could be found liable.
If you have any questions concerning building fires or premise liability claims, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys by email or by calling (718) 364-4000 for a free consultation. You can also get started by simply filling out one of our case intake forms and we will have one of our attorneys get right back to you.