FIRE ESCAPE COLLAPSES WHILE TENANT ATTEMPTS TO ESCAPE BURNING APARTMENT

A recent fire in Jersey City has led to concerns over building safety and the maintenance of fire escapes. At around 5:20 am on June 15th, a four-story apartment building in Greenville caught fire in one resident's first-floor kitchen and made its way through the building. A third-floor resident, J.R. Williams, reported that he attempted to escape the building using the fire escape, but using the fire escape was fraught with problems. First, the sliding bolts on the doors to the fire escape had been painted over multiple times, so that each resident attempting to get through had to break down the access door nearest their unit. Second, Williams reported that he fell through the rusted fire escape stairs immediately after stepping onto them and fell one full story down onto the next landing. Another resident reported that each step he took down the escape caused the stair to collapse beneath him. A different resident stated that she knew the fire escape was in poor condition and had complained of the hazard to the landlord a number of times, to no avail. 

New Jersey landlords have a duty to maintain an apartment in "habitable" condition for the occupying tenants. This means that all units and the surrounding rental premises must be safe and decent at all times, as well as being compliant with any relevant rental health and safety codes. Should a tenant notify the landlord of a necessary repair to a vital facility, then the landlord must make that repair within a reasonable time period. If the repair is one that could cause serious injury if not made immediately, then the landlord may be required to make the repair in a more expedient manner. Under the New Jersey Building Code, if a fire escape is determined to be unsafe or deteriorated, a landlord must immediately make repairs so that the space is again safe for use. Should a landlord fail to comply with codes and laws regarding issues of safety on the rental property, evidence of these failings can be used as a way to prove negligence in court and possibly recover damages against that negligent landlord.

If you've been injured on dangerous premises, ensure that you're fully compensated for any medical expenses, time spent off work, or pain and suffering you've experienced. Contact the experienced Morristown personal injury and premises liability attorneys at Smith & Doran for a free consultation on your claims. From anywhere in the Morris County area, including Green Village, Brookside, Cedar Knolls, or throughout Somerset or Sussex County, call 973-292-0016 to speak with an attorney.

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