Our firm settled a case last month against an apartment complex in Andalusia, Alabama, and its management company, Huff Management, Inc. Our client suffered second and third degree burns over 20% of her body when a fire started on the stove in the kitchen of the apartment she was renting from the Defendants. The victim turned one of the stove pilots on medium to heat some grease to cook her dinner. She left the kitchen for just a moment when an ordinary grease fire went undetected and spread rapidly out of control because the smoke detectors in the apartment did not work. Neither did the complex provide fire extinguishers as required by law.
In addition, the fire stop canisters installed under the hood of the stove to extinguish grease fires did not deploy. Had the canisters deployed, the grease fire would have been extinguished immediately, before it could pose any threat. The reason the canisters failed to deploy was because the canisters expired four years prior to the fire. When our client returned to the kitchen, she was faced with the task of putting out a fire which threatened the entire complex without an extinguisher and which should have never spread like it did. While she was attempting to extinguish the fire, our client was severely burned. Her burns left her totally disabled and unable to work at her present job and any job in the future.
During the pretrial phase of the case, we learned that the Defendants not only tampered with some of the key evidence, the fire stop canisters, but actually destroyed them in an attempt to cover up their wrong doing. At the outset, we learned from some of the Defendants’ employees who were in our client’s apartment within days of the fire that the fire stop canisters failed to deploy. But, when we deposed the Defendants’ fire expert, he produced photos that he took three weeks after the fire showing that the canisters did deploy. When we asked to examine the canisters, however, the Defendants stalled and eventually stated that they could not find the canisters. After several requests, the Defendants finally produced canisters that they had attached to the stove’s hood that was involved in the fire. Remarkably, these canisters were not the ones involved in the fire. The Defendants not only destroyed the canisters, which implicated them in this case, but they actually affixed other canisters to the stove’s hood in an attempt to cover up their wrongdoing. It was not until we filed various motions for sanctions with the Court did the Defendants admit that the real canisters were no longer available.
While some of the motions for sanctions were pending, the case settled for a confidential amount. The case was pending in Covington County before Judge Ashley McKathan. LaBarron Boone and Rick Morrison, lawyers in our firm, along with Wes Laird of Opp, Alabama, handled this case and did a very good job for our client.
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