Archive for August, 2014

Landlord Negligence: An All Too Common Cause of Wrongful Deaths Lawsuits

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

One of the most common reasons why a family member may file a wrongful death lawsuit is after a loved one is killed in an accident caused by landlord negligence. While specific landlord-tenant laws can vary greatly from state to state, all states share the same basic require that a landlord needs to maintain a safe residence for his or her tenant(s). If a tenant is killed as the result of a landlord who has failed in his or her obligations to a tenant, then the family has the right to seek compensation from the landlord and any other negligent parties through a wrongful death lawsuit.

In late August, The Boston Globe reported that the family of a young Boston University student, who perished in a fire in April 2013, was planning on filing a wrongful death action. The family accuses the landlord of renting an ‘illegal’ apartment. They allege that the house where the student lived was not safe and had several problems, including being overcrowded. The house’s building plans with the city listed six bedrooms but had been converted to have twelve bedrooms. A total of 14 tenants occupied the structure. Three of the tenants occupied bedrooms in the basement, which were deemed to have been illegal by the city more than 10 years ago. However, nothing was ever done.

According to the complaint, the tenants on the third floor only had one way out of the building, which was down a flight of stairs. On the day of the fire, this set of stairs was made impassable by heavy smoke and fire. Local code requires a rental unit such as this one, to have at least two means of egress. The complaint also alleges that the house had a faulty fire-alarm system. The system in place, which did not have a mandated city permit, either failed or was not connected properly so that an early sound would warn tenants on the upper floors of a fire. Instead, by the time the alarm located on the ceiling of the attic went off, smoke and flames had completely engulfed the stairs.

Per the complaint, had the apartment been equipped with a fully functional fire-alarm system and a second means of egress, the occupants on the third floor would have had time to safely escape the building on the day of the fire. Five tenants and guests did escape from the third floor rooms by jumping out of windows. Those that survived the blaze suffered injuries ranging from a fractured back to a sprained ankle. The student killed in the fire was found just a few feet from her third floor bedroom window. Her body was severely burned and the official cause of her death was smoke inhalation.

While the wrongful death suit filed by the student’s parents will never fully compensate them for their loss, it will hopefully help bring them closure and a sense of justice being served.

 If someone that you love died as the result of landlord negligence it is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible to help protect your rights. A Kansas City Wrongful Death Attorney can explain the process of seeking damages and will help make sure that you know what to expect. The experienced Kansas City Wrongful Death Attorneys at the Hubbard & Kurtz, L.L.P. have helped countless clients around the area, in both Kansas and Missouri. Our caring and compassionate team of attorneys are skilled at helping wrongful death client find their way through this challenging time in their lives. Please contact us today at (816) 472-4673 to set up an initial consultation.

Missouri’s “One Recovery Rule” Bars Recovery for One Family

Friday, August 1st, 2014

In late July of this year, a Missouri family received devastating news. The 8th Circuit Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, which dismissed their wrongful death claim against several big tobacco companies. The family filed a wrongful death case after husband and father, Michael Thompson, died from throat cancer in 2009 after smoking cigarettes. The Court in its ruling held that the Thompson family did not have a cause of action based on Missouri’s “one recovery” rule.

History. Michael Thompson began smoking cigarettes while a minor. He smoked for a total of 28 years—until he received a diagnosis of lung cancer in 1997. Thompson brought a personal injury lawsuit against several major manufacturers, sellers and distributors of tobacco products for his injuries due to cigarette smoking. The suit named several industry giants as defendants, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Philip Morris USA, Inc., and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation. The aforementioned companies are the makers of brand name cigarettes, such as Marlboro, Winston and Doral, amongst others that Thompson smoked during his lifetime. The case against the manufacturers went to trial and in 2003 the jury found in Thompson’s favor. The jury determined that the tobacco companies were liable for negligence and product defect and awarded Thompson a judgment of more than $1 million dollars in damages.

“One Recovery” Rule. The Thompson family’s wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the same tobacco manufactures named in his earlier personal injury case. The Court affirmed the dismissal citing the one recovery rule, which prohibits a decedent’s heirs from recovering under a wrongful death action, in the event that the decedent received satisfaction for the same wrongdoing, whether by settlement or trial, during the decedent’s lifetime. The theory behind the rule is that if the decedent resolved the claim during his or her lifetime, then there is no claim remaining after his or her death.

The decision came as a surprise to some because the ‘one recovery’ rule is a relatively obscure rule. The rule comes from a 1906 Missouri Supreme Court decision in Strode v. St. Louis Transit Co. The Thompson family argued that a lot has changed since the Court’s decision more than 100 years ago. Namely that the wrongful death statute creates an independent cause of action for a decedent’s heirs. The Circuit Court rejected the Thompson’s argument stating that it was against the plain language of Strode.

What the Future Holds. Missouri is one of many states that has a law like “one recovery” on the books. However, the Thompson case can leave a person who has a terminal illness like Michael Thompson, feeling confused about his or her legal options. This why it is important to talk with a seasoned attorney who handles personal injury and wrongful death matters routinely. He or she will be able to educate you as to your options and make sure that you receive proper compensation.

Coping with the loss of a loved one that was killed as the result of the wrongdoing of another can feel like an impossible task. However, you do not have to suffer alone. You may be able to hold the accountable parties liable for their actions through a wrongful death lawsuit. A Kansas City Wrongful Death Attorney will explain the process of seeking damages and will help make sure that your rights are protected. The experienced Kansas City Wrongful Death Attorneys at the Hubbard & Kurtz, L.L.P. have helped countless clients, in both Kansas and Missouri. Our compassionate team of attorneys are skilled at helping wrongful death clients receive justice. Please contact us today at (816) 472-4673 to set up an initial consultation.