Claim: This issue of InSite's case law update focuses on an eight-year PHA resident who filed a claim against her housing authority following a candle fire in her unit. She alleged that the smoke detector in her unit had not been working leading up to the accident and claimed it did not operate on the night of the fire. She also alleged that the metal security bars on her bedroom window were inoperative. As a result of the fire, the plaintiff suffered severe smoke inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning, significant lung damage, and first-and second-degree burns to a large percentage of her backside. She was in a coma for nearly a month and racked up nearly $900,000 in medical bills. While there is no doubt the plaintiff suffered substantial injuries, the housing authority disagreed with the plaintiff's allegations. In response, HAI Group filed a motion for summary judgement on behalf of the housing authority.
Details: The plaintiff argued that the housing authority never trained her on using her window's quick-release lever. If it had, she claimed, she would have been able to escape through the window. The housing authority argued that there was no evidence that the plaintiff had any thought to escape through the window because, in her testimony, she said that she went to bed and had no further recollection of the rest of the night. The PHA also noted that the resident had been made aware of the window levers, as she had been warned not to block them over the eight years she had lived in the unit. The judge found no evidence that the quick-release lever on the bedroom window wasn't working as intended, and no evidence of a malfunctioning smoke detector.
Outcome: The judge granted the housing authority's motion for summary judgement, and when the plaintiff subsequently brought her case to the appellate course, a federal judge once again affirmed the trial court's summary judgement, leading to a successful claim defense for HAI Group and the housing authority. While there is no denying the plaintiff sustained severe injuries, the evidence did not support any allegations of negligence on behalf of the housing authority.