Written by Ronemus & Vilensky on January 12, 2022
Victims of the deadly Bronx high-rise apartment fire filed a $1 billion negligence lawsuit against the building’s owners on Tuesday. The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of married couple Rosa Reyes and Felix Martinez and their neighbors, who suffered injuries and property damage.
The fire, which took place at 333 East 181 st Street, left 17 people dead (including eight children) and dozens injured and homeless. The couple’s lawsuit outlines defective safety measures that exacerbated the impact of the fire and alleges negligence on the part of the owners including the failure of self-closing doors. The lawsuit also accuses the owners of failure to ensure the smoke detectors within each apartment and on the premises were functioning; failure to ensure fire escapes were in good working order; failure to provide adequate and lawful heat; allowing alarms to sound “all the time;” and not having an intercom system or a sprinkler system; among other issues.
The owners named in the suit are Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC, Lich Investment Group, Belveron Partners, and Camber Property Group. Reyes and Martinez lived on the 16th floor of the 19-story building. Martinez is in critical condition and on a respirator as a result of severe burns.
The couple’s attorney, Robert Vilensky, said in a separate notice of claim against the city that he’s seeking a class action lawsuit on behalf of all the building’s tenants ― and $1 billion for the entire group of affected tenants, according to the Daily News.
“We are blaming the city for their failure to ensure that the code was followed and followed up upon,” said Vilensky. “What good is a violation if you don’t follow up on it?” “This was a totally, totally, totally preventable fire,” he asserted. Lawsuit Filed Against City Authorities Another lawsuit was filed against city officials, blaming them for the injuries and deaths.
According to the lawsuit, the city’s Department of Buildings is responsible for ensuring that self-closing doors in buildings work, but the agency “failed in every way” to ensure the building was properly maintained and the doors were in good working order. Most of the injuries were as a result of smoke inhalation.
The spring-loaded hinges that were supposed to automatically close the door did not function. A second door left open in a higher-up stairwell served as a flue, sucking smoke upward and through the structure.
According to court documents, former Mayor Bill de Blasio and Buildings Commissioner Melanie LaRocca, who are named in the lawsuit, were also aware of the building’s conditions “for many, many years now,” referring to de Blasio’s promise to ensure that all buildings are inspected following the deadly Bronx fire in 2017 that killed 13 people and injured many more.
“It is obvious that [the Department of Buildings] and politicians only give ‘lip service’ to safety issues and fire issues and are responsible for the resulting injuries and deaths,” Vilensky wrote in the papers, arguing city agencies failed to do anything after discovering that doors didn’t self-close at the E. 181st St. building.
Sources: Daily News, AP