Apartment Fire Lawsuit Dismissed Due to Smoke Alarm Evidence

fire_firefighters_fire_truck-1024x683If you and your family members are injured in an apartment fire, you might think you would be able to recover for your injuries from the apartment owners.  However, the law may only allow you to recover for your damages with sufficient evidence to support your claim. 

Afrah Qasem and her daughter, Asary Shotah, tried to escape from a fire in their apartment by jumping out of the window of their apartment on the second floor. They filed a lawsuit against Acadian Apartments for the injuries they suffered.  Qasem and her daughter claimed they had been injured due to Acadian’s negligence.  They claimed Acadian did not have sufficient policies and procedures in place, did not have working fire alarms or fire extinguishers, and had insufficiently marked emergency exits.  

Acadian responded, claiming that Qasem and her daughter had caused the fire by using a candle or other similar device and did not extinguish the fire.  Acadian wanted $50,000 in damages for the fire. Acadian filed a summary judgment motion under La. C.C.P. 966, claiming Qasem and her daughter could not prove Acadian had caused the fire and was liable for their damages. The trial court granted Acadian’s summary judgment motion. Qasem and her daughter appealed, claiming the trial court erred in granting Acadian’s summary judgment motion. 

On appeal, Qasem and her daughter claimed the trial court erred in granting Acadian’s summary judgment motion because Acadian had not presented evidence that it regularly maintained its smoke or fire alarms.  Acadian argued there was no evidence they had caused the fire.  Additionally, Acadian argued Qasem and her daughter had not provided evidence of Acadian’s supposedly improper policies and procedures or lack of working alarms and fire extinguishers.  Acadian provided excerpts from the depositions of various individuals, photographs of their smoke alarms, and an inspection checklist used in the apartment.  

Qasem claimed on the night of the fire, a friend had told them the apartment had no electricity, and a relative took them home and left a candle in their apartment’s kitchen.  The apartment owners testified about the processes used to inspect the smoke and fire alarms, including replacing batteries when needed.  A fire inspector from the city fire department testified he was certain the fire was not from an electrical fire. A professional fire investigator hired by the apartment’s insurance company to investigate the fire testified Acadian had complied with all applicable requirements involving fire alarms, extinguishers, and emergency exits. 

Based on the evidence Acadian presented, the appellate court disagreed there was “no evidence” that the apartment regularly maintained its smoke and fire alarms because of the testimony from the apartment owners.  Under La. C.C.P. 966(A)(4), the trial court properly considered the depositions supporting Acadian’s summary judgment motion.  Therefore, the trial court did not error in granting Acadian’s summary judgment motion. 

This case illustrates how, even in unfortunate situations like an apartment fire, you will not be able to prevail on your claims without sufficient evidence. An experienced apartment fire attorney can advise you on presenting adequate evidence to support your claim and survive a summary judgment motion from the opposing side. 

Additional Sources:  Afrah Qasem and Asary Shotah v. Acadian Apartments, Inc.

Article Written By Berniard Law Firm

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