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ARTICLE ID 8268

$________ TOTAL Apartment fire caused by faulty electrical wiring - Apartment occupied by minors only in early morning fire - Jury awards mother damages for emotional distress and property damage - In addition, jury awards damages to minors for past and future psychological pain and suffering.

New York County, N.Y.

In the early morning hours of April 9, ________, the plaintiff minor children were sleeping in their apartment at ________ East 34th Street. Their mother, Daisy Curbean, a single mother, was working at her business as a wig manufacturer at the time of the fire. The children, who were aged 5, 9, and 12 at the time, claimed that they were awoken by the sound of the smoke alarm. The 12- year-old called the building’s doorman, who then telephoned the building superintendent. The superintendent attempted to extinguish the fire, but was unsuccessful. He then called the New York City Fire Department, which was able to extinguish the fire. The mother, Ms. Curbean, acting individually and as guardian of her children, sued the owners of the apartment building.

The plaintiff argued that the children had been sleeping when the fire began and that the fire had been caused by faulty electrical wiring. The children each testified that they had been sleeping and were awoken by the smoke detector. The plaintiff presented the fire Marshall, who testified that the fire was electrical in nature. He stated that had he believed that the mother had been negligent in leaving her children at home, it would have been his job to arrest her. However, he testified that he interviewed the 12-year-old and believed she was sufficiently mature to have been left in charge of her younger siblings.

In addition, the plaintiff introduced a report by the building inspector which concluded that the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring.

The report also stated that there was illegal electrical work and violations in all ________ units of the apartment building. The plaintiff called an expert engineer who concluded from his review of the records of the fire Marshall and building inspector, and from photographs of the scene, that the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring.

The engineer stated that six years after the fire, the building was still in violation of the same electrical code requirements.

The plaintiff contended that the superintendent had never told the fire Marshall or police that the children had been playing with matches.

However, when the superintendent was deposed several years after the fire, he then stated that the children had been playing with matches.

The plaintiff called the superintendent to testify and pointed out to the jury this inconsistency.

The plaintiff, Ms. Curbean, claimed that she suffered from emotional damages caused by the trauma of the fire. She underwent two years of psychiatric and psychological treatment for anxiety and depression and believed that she would need ongoing care. In addition, the plaintiff claimed that the children suffered from panic attacks triggered by the sounds of fire engines, nightmares and sleeplessness. The younger children suffered from bed- wetting, nightmares and sleepwalking.

All three children’s performance in school was negatively affected, according to the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s treating psychotherapist and an expert psychotherapist testified as to her emotional ailments.

The plaintiff maintained that their property was completely destroyed by the fire and, because the apartment was uninhabitable, the family had to move into the plaintiff’s mother’s studio apartment and that she was never able to restore the family to the lifestyle they had been used to prior to the fire.

At trial, the defense claimed that the children had started the fire by playing with matches. In addition, the defense alleged that the mother was negligent in leaving her children unattended and that as a result of her negligence, the children started the fire.

The trial lasted three weeks and the jury deliberated for one day.

The plaintiff had demanded $________ and the defendant offered $________.

The jury awarded the plaintiffs a total of $________. The verdict included $________ for interest on the plaintiff’s property damages. The breakdown of the award was as follows: $________ for Ms. Curbean ($________ for past medical cost; $________ for future medical cost; $________ for past pain and suffering; $________ for lost earnings, and $________ for property damage); and $________ for each of the three children ($________ for future medical cost; $________ for past pain and suffering; and $________ for future pain and suffering).

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