NY fire victims file $110M lawsuit against city
Eleven victims claim the city should have taken the toddler away from his inattentive mother before he caused the fire
By John Annese
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — The city should have taken the toddler who started last month's deadly Bronx inferno away from his inattentive mom long before the horrific blaze, several victims claim in court documents filed Thursday.
Eleven victims of the fire that killed 13 people, filed a notice of claim saying they intend to sue the city for a combined $110 million for failing to keep track of several problems inside the doomed apartment building.
The Dec. 28 blaze on Prospect Ave. in Belmont was started by a 3-year-old child playing with a stove burner.
"The mother of said child was a person known to the authorities and to the Administration for Child Services Department for not watching and taking care of her child," the court filings allege.
Had the Administration for Children's Services removed the child from his mom's care, "said fire would not have occurred," according to the documents.
The claimants, who represent the four dead members of the Stewart family, eight of the injured and one person who escaped, want to sue the FDNY, the city Housing Preservation and Development department and ACS.
The city should have ensured that the fire hydrants around the building weren't frozen, should have kept tabs on an HPD violation that one of the smoke detectors inside wasn't working, and should have made sure the fire escapes were functioning properly, said lawyer Robert Vilensky.
Vilensky said that while he's not sure if ACS was in fact monitoring the firebug's mom, he has to make the allegation in a notice of claim within 90 days, or risk not being able to file a lawsuit.
"I always err on the side of my client," he said.
Vilensky's clients say they saw city agents visiting the mother's apartment in the past.
"They were well aware that the mother might not have been the greatest mother in terms of watching that child," he said. "If ACS was involved, then they didn't do the greatest job in the world in protecting that child."
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