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ARTICLE ID 38500

Alleged of breach of residential lease agreement - Failure to provide fire protection - Failure to secure apartment building - Loss of contents of apartment.

Philadelphia County

The plaintiff brought this action against the owner of the apartment building where she resided when the building caught fire. The plaintiff claimed the defendant failed to install adequate fire protection equipment and was negligent in failing to secure the building to prevent a third-party from setting the fire. The defendant maintained that fire alarms or sprinklers were not required for the building which contained two apartments and the landlord’s real estate business. The defense also contended that it was the plaintiff’s minor son, not an outsider, who set the blaze.

The plaintiff testified that when she moved into the apartment, the defendant represented he would install smoke and fire detection systems.

The plaintiff also alleged that fire alarms were required by the Philadelphia Fire Code for the building. The plaintiff testified that she was asleep with her boyfriend early on a Saturday morning and awoke up to find smoke filling her third-floor apartment. The plaintiff testified that her seven- year-old son was asleep at the time, that she woke the child and fled the building. The plaintiff claimed approximately $________ in loss of contents.

The Philadelphia fire marshal testified by deposition that the fire was set, either intentionally or accidentally. This witness opined that the fire was started by a child playing with matches and he concluded that the plaintiff’s son had started the fire because he was the only child residing in the building. The fire marshal also testified he offered to enroll the boy in a "fire prevention" class. The defense argued that the plaintiff did not disagree with the fire marshal’s assessment, that her son had started the fire, at the time of the blaze.

The defendant denied making oral promises to install sprinklers. The defense also contended the plaintiff could not establish that sprinklers or a fire alarm was required by the city fire code.

After a three-day trial, the jury found that the defendant breached the lease by failing to provide smoke and fire detection systems.

However, the jury found that the defendant’s breach was not the legal cause of injury to the plaintiff.

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