A family whose members lost everything and suffered serious burns while escaping a house fire in April 2006 has sued the apartment building\’s owner, claiming the real estate company is liable because of a lack of smoke detectors and escape routes in the building and their apartment.
Angelica Gonzales Torres was home with her children, ages 3, 4 and 8, and her mother, Etelvina Gonzales, on April 8, 2006, when a fire broke out at 402-404 Broadway. The family is seeking damages, both compensatory and punitive, which includes about $219,000 in medical bills, from building owner L. Friedmann Realty Inc., of Monroe, N.Y.
Investigators say Vicky Scott, 50, and her accomplice, 22-year-old Iissha Martin, poured gasoline on the back porch and lit a match because Ms. Scott was angry with another resident in the building.
Mrs. Torres, Ms. Gonzales and the children had to run through the flames to escape the burning building, and all five were burned badly while fleeing, said their attorney, Sean P. McDonough, of Dougherty, Leventhal & Price.
The suit against L. Friedmann Realty focuses on alleged violations of state and city building codes, including not having smoke detectors, sprinklers or fire extinguishers anywhere in the building.
But perhaps the biggest failure, in Mr. McDonough\’s opinion, is that the only entrance and exit to the Torres\’ apartment led to the back porch. The suit claims the realty company ignored requests from Mrs. Torres and her husband, Marco, to repair the front door, which was boarded up and bolted shut.
â€œThe fire was started in the back,â€ he said. â€œThey were forced to run through the flames because there was no other way out.â€
Attempts to reach L. Friedmann Realty officials were unsuccessful Friday.
Mrs. Torres suffered the most injuries, according to the suit, with burns to her arms, hands, back, thighs and feet. Her medical bills top $181,000, the suit claims. Ms. Gonzales and the children\’s medical bills total at least $38,000, the suit claims.
Ms. Scott, serving a 9½- to 80-year sentence, and Ms. Martin, serving eight to 20 years, were ordered to pay restitution to the Torres family, as well as another resident who was home at the time of the fire.
However, it\’s unlikely the Torres family will see any of the restitution money they deserve, Mr. McDonough said, because of the lengthy prison sentences.