A landlord in Alabama will pay $500,000 in a wrongful death action brought on behalf of an 11-year-old girl who perished in a fire in her rental home.
According to a news report, the tenant’s family members accused the landlord of negligence for not repairing a malfunctioning smoke detector. Witnesses say they requested the repairs, but the landlord ignored the requests. A judge agreed that the landlord was negligent for the child’s death.
An attorney for the tenants said that if the smoke detector was working, it could have saved the girl’s life. According to the attorneys, this is the second fire-related death that has occurred in this landlord’s rental properties.
A landlord can be found negligent if they violate a local building code, or if they deviate from a standard practice. Most building codes require smoke detectors in rental units, and many states now require carbon monoxide detectors in rental properties.
To prevail in a negligence lawsuit, tenants would have to show that the landlord fell short of the standard of care, and that the tenant’s injury was a foreseeable consequence of that failure.
In some negligence actions, the court may find the landlord’s actions or omissions so extreme it’s considered willful, or a reckless disregard for the tenants. In those cases, punitive damages may be awarded. Often, punitive damages are not covered by the landlord’s insurance policy, forcing the landlord to pay out-of-pocket.
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