Generally, property owners have a duty to reasonably protect those visiting or living on the property from dangerous conditions. Failure to adequately maintain the property can cause people to be seriously injured. Some people may even be killed. One New York couple is reeling after the tragic loss of their two daughters. The tragedy occurred at the family's apartment after a radiator valve popped off, releasing hot steam into the room where the girls were sleeping. The daughters, aged two and one, passed away due to hyperthermia and internal organ failure. The girls suffered burns to over 70 percent of their bodies.
The family was part of a cluster-site city program that provides temporary housing to homeless families in privately owned apartment complexes. The city hired a non-profit, Bushwick Economic Development Corp., to take care of maintenance issues at the apartment. The city is also required to inspect the cluster-site apartments twice a year.
However, the non-profit allegedly ignored the issue when another woman reported the faulty radiator to a caseworker last year. The woman, along with her two sons, previously lived in the same apartment as the family when the radiator valve popped off. The woman was able to replace the valve and managed to keep her sons away from it until they moved out.
To make matters worse, the building housing the family is owned by a notorious slumlord. In 2015, the owner was ranked number four on Public Advocate Letitia James' list of the 100 worst landlords. The Department of Housing and Preservation has issued the landlord with over 1,200 violations. The landlord has also received 168 complaints from the Buildings Department.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has declared that this was a "freak accident" and that there would be a full investigation. The girl's family strongly disagrees with his assessment and insists that the girls and their parents should not have been placed in the building to begin with. As the investigation continues, the family will continue to grieve the loss of two little girls right before the holidays.
Source: New York Daily News, "Bronx radiator that killed two children broke down in August 2015, but calls for repairs went ignored," Kerry Burke, Erin Durkin, Ross Keith and Rich Shapiro, Dec. 9, 2016