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$4M settlement for tenants forced to jump in apartment fire

$4M settlement for tenants forced to jump in apartment fire

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Plaintiffs were two young women who were permanently injured as a result of an apartment fire. At the time of the fire, both plaintiffs were approximately 25 years old. One was a graduate student, and the other was a high school teacher.

Plaintiffs alleged that, when fire broke out in their apartment building, the smoke detectors failed to operate to alert them to the fire. By the time they became aware of the fire, one plaintiff having been awakened by her cat, the front door of the apartment was blocked by fire and the apartment was full of smoke.

The two called 911 and fled to their second-floor balcony. While on the phone with the 911 operator, they reported smoke and flames around and underneath them, burning through the deck on which they were standing. Hearing no sirens and having no other options, they were forced to jump from the balcony, which was approximately 30 or more feet from the ground.

Each of them sustained serious injuries to the legs, ankles and feet. Plaintiff 1 was assigned a disability rating to her lower extremities of 100 percent, and Plaintiff 2 was assigned a disability rating to her lower extremities of 90 percent. Both underwent several surgeries with a likelihood of additional surgery in the future.

Although each was eventually able to walk again, both are limited in terms of their activities and their daily routines are marked with pain and difficulty. Each already has arthritis in the affected joints, which is predicted to worsen over time.

Plaintiffs alleged that, although the smoke detectors did not go off during the fire, the apartment complex had been inspected by the local fire department 269 days before the fire and, among other things, was instructed to inspect all of the smoke detectors in resident apartments. Plaintiffs contended that, in response, the complex did not do anything to respond to the fire department inspection with respect to resident buildings until after the fire that caused plaintiffs’ injuries.


Settlement Report

Type of action: Negligence resulting in permanent injury and disability

Injuries alleged: Plaintiff 1: Right pilon fracture, right fifth metatarsal avulsion fracture; left open grade 2 calcaneous fracture. Plaintiff 2: Bilateral comminuted calcaneal fractures; left fibular fracture; right talus fracture; right fourth metatarsal fracture.

Case name: Confidential

Case number: Confidential

Court: Confidential

Verdict or settlement: Settlement

Date: Spring 2010

Amount: $4 million    

Experts: Case settled prior to disclosure of experts

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Alan W. Duncan and Allison O. Van Laningham, both of Smith Moore Leatherwood (Greensboro)

Editor’s note: The information in Lawyers Weekly’s verdicts and settlements reports was submitted by the counsel for the prevailing party and represents the attorney’s characterization of the case.

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