Owner May Be Liable for Fire that Killed Five in a DeKalb County Home

Early in January, a home caught fire in DeKalb County with five people inside. By the time emergency response crews arrived, the fire had progressed too far to allow a rescue. The remains of the victims, 27-year-old Quaniece Gregory and her four small children, were later found in their bedrooms. The family dog was reportedly also killed in the fire. A sixth resident —Gregory’s husband, Thomas Reese — was in Maryland for work at the time of the fire. In addition to the devastating loss of his family, he was left without a home, without salvageable personal possessions, and without the means to cover his loved ones’ final expenses.

Landlords Are Responsible for Fire Code Compliance

Residential fire deaths are a serious problem in Georgia, and landlords have a legal duty to take all reasonable steps to protect their tenants. An initial investigation of the wreckage did uncover the required smoke detectors, but due to the level of damage, fire officials could not immediately verify whether they were functional or not.

In either case, smoke detectors are only the most obvious, surface-level form of fire precaution. International safety codes also require landlords to provide fire extinguishers, keep exit routes unobstructed and well-lit, and maintain gas and electrical systems in safe working order.

The fire that killed Gregory and her children is believed to be electrical in nature and to have originated in the living room, though the exact cause is still under investigation. Electrical malfunctions are one of the top five causes of residential fires.

If this landlord ignored the codes and rented out an unsafe home, she is liable for the damages.

Third Parties Could Also Be Responsible for the Fire

It’s possible that the owner of the house did everything she could be expected to think of to protect this family, including hiring licensed electricians when appropriate. Even seemingly qualified people who should know better sometimes cut corners on maintenance and repairs, and it can be close to impossible for a layperson to know the difference before it’s too late.

It’s also possible that there could have been manufacturing defects in the electrical components or building materials, or that a safety inspector could have failed to perform due diligence at some point in this home’s past. There may be a single negligent party responsible for the fire, or several who share responsibility. Even if everyone did everything right, there’s a good chance this disaster falls within the landlord’s insurance coverage.

No one should have to weather a disaster like this without necessary financial support. If you are Thomas Reese, or if you too have lost family in a similar incident in Georgia, The Stoddard Firm can help you get a fair settlement to cover your expenses and give you the space you need to grieve. Click here to learn more about fires on rental properties and how premises liability applies to these cases.

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