Building owners sued over deadly Bronx apartment fire
Family members of the victims who died in an apartment fire in New York City last month announced a lawsuit on Tuesday against the building owners, accusing them of safety violations.
The 120-unit building in the Bronx erupted in flames on Jan. 9, killing 19 people, including nine children. Investigators said it was caused by a faulty space heater that sent smoke throughout the building.
National civil rights attorney Ben Crump and New York law firm Weitz & Luxenberg are filing five lawsuits in the Superior Court in the Bronx on behalf of the victim’s families, according to the Associated Press.
The defendants named include three investment firms along with building owners Bronx Park Phase III Preservation and the Bronx Phase III Housing company.
Crump and other attorneys announced the lawsuit via a news conference on Tuesday held in front of the apartment building. In a press release, Crump said many of the victims’ families immigrated from Africa and have language barriers making it harder for them to get help. The attorney reiterated the need to represent the families during the news conference.
“If these were white citizens and you had 17 people lose their lives and others catastrophically injured that we would not only be talking about civil liability and civil citations,” he said at the conference, according to CBS New York. “We would be talking about criminal culpability.”
Hundreds gathered for a funeral in late January to memorialize the victims. New York Attorney General Letitia James faulted the apartment owners for failing to fix a space heater and a door inside the building, which allegedly failed to close during the emergency and sent smoke wafting throughout the apartment.
“No individuals should have to have space heaters. No individuals should have doors that do not close,” James said at the funeral. “There were conditions in that building that should have been corrected. There were conditions in that building that should have been inspected.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams also promised to get to the bottom of the incident because building doors, by law, should self-close.
“We need to make sure these systems operate because they save lives,” Adams said.
Updated: 5:04 p.m.