Getting a Recovery for Fire Injuries in an Illegal Apartment

During this weekend a horrific fire killed three men in an illegal set of rooms.  See New York Daily News story here.

Firefighters rush victim to an ambulance at the scene of a triple fatal fire in Woodside Queens Saturday morning.

     One of the survivors being taken from the scene

The fire occurred in the basement of a Woodside, Queens, two family house that was converted to an illegal five family house with a set of seven single rooms in the basement.  The fire and fatalities occurred in the basement where Bangladeshi immigrants lived.   The building owner was cited for illegal occupancy, failure to provide a basement exit, and conducting renovations without a permit.  Illegal apartment conversions are a problem in working class neighborhoods with a heavy immigrant population.

In a lawsuit plaintiff would have to show that the building owner’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the injuries.  The violation of a safety law, as the building and fire codes, would be proof of negligence.  This is called negligence per se.  In this situation, the building owner would be liable for the illegal conversion which caused or were a substantial factor in causing the deaths. 

However, the owner’s violation of building and fire codes will not necessarily spell victory for a plaintiff.  The injuries must have been causally related to the violation, such as lack of exits, if the injured person were trapped in the apartment.  

If  you have been injured in a fire, please feel free to call us for a free consultation at 800-581-1434 or write to

Mark E. Seitelman, 11/8/09,  




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