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Deadly Radiator Burst Brings Attention to Liability for Poor Maintenance

Posted January 4, 2017

{1:35 minutes to read} The December 7th deaths of 2-year-old Ibanez Ambrose and 1-year-old Scylee Ambrose of the Bronx bring up an increasingly hot topic: liability for maintenance and safety hazards. As is tragically the case in lower income housing in New York City, it takes a grave incident to get authorities to sit up and take notice. Evidence indicates that the Ambrose sisters died as a result of steam burns from a burst radiator in their apartment; a privately owned Hunts Point building that provides temporary shelter for the homeless as part of the City’s cluster-site program.

Many cluster-site buildings were identified as having code and fire safety violations back in March of 2015, and the program’s tenants often contend with security issues, grime, and rodents due to poor management oversight. Although the apartment where the girls perished did not have any open violations, the building itself had 26 open code violations at the time of the December 7th tragedy.

Ultimately, the landlords of the buildings are responsible for the upkeep, however the City program that arranges for housing for these families could also be deemed to have fault in the matter. At this point, how the family’s legal representation will proceed is pure speculation, however this case is a reminder of the poor conditions faced by low-income families, previously covered in our October 14, 2016 blog, “New Yorkers Have the Right to Live in a Secure Building.”

Income levels do not change the liability of the landlord to maintain a safe living environment, and since attorneys for these types of personal liability cases typically work on contingency, meaning the plaintiffs pay nothing upfront and fees come out of any funds recovered from the lawsuit, low-income families have open access to legal recourse.

Note: Prior results do not guarantee similar results.

Photo credit: Simon Pulsifer

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