A month after one of New York’s deadliest fires in a quarter-century killed 13 people, the survivors and their families have sued the city. Eleven of the victims are seeking a combined $110 million from the Administration for Child Services Department (ACS) alleging that the mother of the child was known to the city’s welfare agency for her neglectful parenting, according to court documents. The victims allege that because the welfare agency knew of the mother’s subpar parenting skills, they should have taken steps to either remove the child from the mother or otherwise protect the residents of their building.
On December 27, 2017, a three-year-old child was playing with the fire that came off the stove-top burner when the deadly fire supposedly erupted. According to the lawsuit, the child began playing with the knobs on the stove in the kitchen after his mother left him and his two-year-old sibling to watch TV while she took a shower. According to authorities, the mother said this was not the first time her son had played with the stove.
Unfortunately, the mother’s missteps do not end there. When the fire erupted, she grabbed the child and his sibling and rushed out of the building – leaving every door open on her way out, an almost-guaranteed way to allow the fire to spread throughout the building. While her family was safe, the fire rapidly engulfed the building and killed 13 people, injuring many others.
According to the lawsuit, ACS had previously visited the mother at her home and she was “a person known to authorities and to [ACS] for not watching or and taking care of her child.” The lawsuit further alleges that if the ACS had properly performed its job and responded to complaints by taking the child away from his negligent or reckless mother, then the fire would not have occurred.
In addition to the Administration for Child Services, the lawsuit also seeks damages from the FDNY and the Housing Preservation and Development department. According to the lawsuit, firefighters were not able to use the first, and most accessible, fire hydrant when trying to extinguish the flames engulfing the Bronx building because the fire hydrant had frozen. Figuring out the fire hydrant was frozen and locating another, workable fire hydrant cost firefighters precious time and likely resulted in more lost lives, the plaintiffs allege.
The lawsuit also seeks to recover damages from the Housing Preservation and Development department for failing to ensure that the building had functional smoke detectors. The building received numerous citations for not following New York’s regulations on smoke detectors, however; these problems were never actually fixed.
In response to the lawsuit, the city Law Department called the fire last month in the Bronx a “great tragedy.”