While radiators are valuable to surviving cold New York City winters, defective radiators can cause horrific burn injuries and even wrongful death. The parents of two young girls are devastated after the tragic death of their two daughters. The baby girls died when the valve of a radiator in their public housing unit popped off the unit last December. The sisters, Scylee and Ibanez Ambrose (ages 1 and 2), were sleeping peacefully in their bedroom. The faulty radiator caused the room to be enveloped with scalding hot steam which prevented emergency responders and hospital personnel from being able to save the girls lives. The girls died from the failure of internal organs and hyperthermia. The incident resulted in a painful death for the girls who suffered burns over seventy percent of their body.
Media reports regarding the catastrophic accident suggest that this is an incident that should have been prevented. The building was part of a cluster-site city program designed to furnish temporary housing to homeless families in privately owned apartment buildings. According to reports, a woman who previously lived in the Bronx unit reported a similar near miss to her caseworker a year before the recent tragedy. In the prior incident, the woman indicated the radiator valve popped off the heating unit, but she was able to fix the valve and kept her two sons away from the unit until they relocated.
Our New York City premise liability attorneys recognize that property owners or the party managing property has a duty to reasonably safeguard residents or individuals visiting their premises from hazards on the property. When property owners fail to warn of non-obvious hazards or to remedy unsafe conditions, the property owner can be liable for injuries or deaths to tenants and visitors on the premises. Liability in these cases often turns on the issue of actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard by the owner or party managing the property. The knowledge of the caseworker could constitute constructive knowledge to the city because a government entity operated the program.
The media reported several other facts that might justify imputing knowledge of the danger to the city. The city contracted with a non-profit agency, Bushwick Economic Development Corp., to undertake maintenance responsibilities associated with the building. Reports of issues with the radiator or neglected inspections or maintenance by the maintenance contractor might justify liability of the city. The city also was required to conduct an inspection of the premises a minimum of two times per year. Taken collectively, the parents of the two little girls would appear to have a significant amount of evidence to support the contention that the city knew or should have known of the hazardous condition on the premises.
While the evidence discussed above suggests that the city had adequate opportunity to prevent this incident, the failure to deal with the faulty radiator is even more ominous given the background of the apartment owner. The building was owned by an individual reported to be a slumlord. In the 2015 report produced by Public Advocate Letitia James, the apartment owner was identified as among the hundred worst landlords. The Buildings Department has seen 168 complaints filed against the owner of the apartment complex. The landlord also has received an astounding 1,200 violations from the Department of Housing and Preservation.
Predictably, Mayor Bill de Blasio has referred to the deadly radiator explosion as a “freak accident.” The family of the two girls will certainly point to the evidence referenced above to support the position that this was a tragedy that should have been averted. The New York wrongful death attorneys for the family will use an investigation and the discovery process to bolster evidence establishing that the city and owner knew or should have known of the faulty radiator.
The family’s wrongful death lawyers also will seek to identify all potential defendants and sources of insurance. While the city and the owner of the apartment building are obvious defendants, other possible defendants might include the independent maintenance company for failing to perform appropriate maintenance on the radiator. The company that designed the faulty radiator also might be liable if the accident occurred because of a design or manufacturing defect or a failure to provide adequate warnings.
If you or a loved one suffers injury caused by an exploding radiator, malfunctioning radiator, or another hazardous condition on the property of another, our New York City premises liability lawyers tenaciously pursue the fullest recovery for personal injury and wrongful death victims. We invite you to call the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP today at 516-358-6900 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist you when you need it most.