If a property owner knows about potential safety risks and does nothing to remedy the problems, then that property owner can be held liable for any injuries or deaths that occur on the property. At least, that’s what the law here in Michigan tells us and is relatively similar to other real estate laws established in many other states.

It’s this law that is the crux of a tenant dispute working its way through a District of Columbia court this month. The plaintiff in the case is trying to seek justice for the death of her child who perished in an apartment fire. Though it was recently established that the insurance company for the apartment complex does not have to pay out any damages in the accident because of policy coverage, this does not absolve the property owner of liability.

In her lawsuit, the mother claims that a fire broke out from an electrical outlet in the apartment unit. Her three children, who were in the apartment when the fire started, tried to flee using the back door. But because the door was padlocked from the outside, the children could not escape. Running through the smoke, the children then tried to escape through the front door. Only two of them made it out while the third did not.

In a case like this, it could be argued that the property manager knew that padlocking a door from the outside could create a safety risk for the occupants inside the unit. By failing to rectify this issue, the property owner could be held negligent in the death of the child. Incredibly tragic, this story demonstrates how important it is for property owners to maintain safe conditions and the litigation that can follow if someone becomes fatally injured because of these dangerous conditions.

Source: Courthouse News, “Insurer in the Clear for Fire That Killed a Child,” Ryan Abbott, Aug. 20, 2013

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