Bastrop Fire Death Leads to Lawsuit

The son of a woman who died in her Bastrop apartment last September has filed a civil lawsuit seeking “damages for the fear, pain and ultimate death of his mother and the grief and mental anguish he experienced from her death,” according to reports from the Monroe News-Star.

The victim, Merrimac Ellis, died from injuries she suffered in the fire while she was trapped in her power wheelchair. The petition claims that the management of her apartment in the complex for seniors negligently failed to resolve “unreasonably dangerous conditions” that were the cause of Ellis’ death. In addition to seeking damages from the Bond House apartment complex and its insurance underwriter, Ellis’ son is also seeking to recover from the manufacturer of her power wheelchair and the companies maintaining the fire alarm and sprinkler systems at the complex.

The petition asserts that Delta Fire Protection Systems Inc. failed to “maintain sprinkler heads” and that Vantronics Security System of Monroe, Inc. failed to “maintain an audible alarm.” Neither the sprinkler system nor the fire alarm properly responded to the fire that claimed the victim’s life.

The investigation of the State Fire Marshall’s office determined that the fire responsible for Ellis’ death started under her power wheelchair’s seat. Allegations in the petition also state that Invacare Corp., the manufacturer of Ellis’ wheelchair, has previously issued recalls over wheelchairs that have caused fire related deaths.

State Fire Marshal investigators concluded that the sprinkler in Ellis’ apartment did not have problems, but the office does “have concerns about the sprinkler system throughout the building.” The office reported that the owners of the apartment complex will be installing a new system. The Fire Marshals also expect the owners to issue a warning to residents and evaluate the building’s evacuation plan.

While a multitude of legal issues exist in this matter including product defect, negligence, duty of care and others, it is impossible to assert how the court will rule. Only through the careful analysis of an attorney can an everyday individual who has been hit by tragedy understand their legal rights and what compensation they may be owed due to the action, or lack thereof, of other people.

Should an incident like this occur to you or someone you know, please feel free to contact our offices and speak to an attorney who can advise you on your legal rights.