Justice for Children Who Lost Their Mother in a Tragic Fire

Partners Mark A. Brown and Scott D. Lane negotiated a sizeable settlement of $5.75 million on behalf of five children who lost their mother and baby brother in a fire in a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) apartment that was not properly equipped with a smoke detector.

The accident occurred on August 6, 2001, when a fire broke out in an apartment in the Harold Ickes Housing Development—owned by the CHA and managed by Woodlawn Community Development Corporation (WCDC).

A young mother and her six children were in the apartment when the fire started—the woman and her fifteen-month-old toddler were sleeping. There were no smoke detectors to alert them to the danger, and the mother and toddler died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The other children survived the fire, but suffered from smoke inhalation and the devastating loss of their mother and brother.

CHA Should Have Known About the Danger

Smoke detectors are required in CHA properties. However, during the case investigation, our attorneys learned that:

  • A CHA employee, who was in the unit to fix the heat more than one year before the fatal fire, reported that there was no smoke detector.
  • The Chicago Building Department cited the CHA for not having a smoke detector in the apartment prior to the fatal fire.
  • A resident of the unit, the boyfriend of the woman who died, reported the lack of a smoke detector to the CHA prior to the fatal fire.

Despite all of this, smoke detectors were not present in the unit when the young mother and child died. Additionally, a WCDC employee admitted to falsifying a report that said that there were working smoking detectors in the unit seven months prior to this deadly fire.

Recovery for the Surviving Children

These tragic deaths were a direct result of gross negligence on the part of the CHA and the WCDC, and our attorneys were extremely pleased to be able to help this family. They relentlessly pursued justice on behalf of the surviving children and, on March 6, 2006, the CHA and the WCDC agreed to settle the case for $5.75 million.

In a press conference shortly after the settlement, the children’s uncle said that the money would be used for their education and for whatever needs they had in life. The uncle had custody of four of the five surviving children.

UPDATE: Sadly, the victims in this case have experienced further legal issues. In 2013, the children were back in court because their appointed guardian, their uncle, had stolen a large portion of their settlement payment. Please read more about the settlement we achieved for the children when we learned that their uncle stole part of the original settlement.

Awarded: $5,750,000

DISCLAIMER: The results are specific to the facts and legal circumstances of each of the clients’ cases and should not be used to form an expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case.

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