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WRONGFUL DEATH: Appellate Court reverses summary judgment for fire marshal arising out of fire at affordable housing unit

WRONGFUL DEATH: Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment For Fire Marshal Arising Out Of Fire At Affordable Housing Unit

The case arose out of a fire that occurred in an affordable housing unit in Bridgeport.  The fire allegedly originated in the plaintiff/decedent’s oven in the apartment.  The State Police and fire department concluded from the location of the bodies that the decedents knew about the fire and made an attempt to leave the apartment, which lacked fire escapes and fire extinguishers.

Connecticut General Statutes §29-305b at all relevant times required that fire marshals conduct annual inspections of apartments.  In the case at bar, the units in question were not inspected.  The plaintiff’s expert witness provided an affidavit attesting that there were multiple code violations in the apartment.

The trial court found that the municipal defendants were immune from responsibility for their alleged negligence and that the plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to establish an issue of fact with regard to allegations of recklessness.

On appeal, the Connecticut Appellate Court finds that there exists a genuine issue of material fact for the jury and that the granting of summary judgment was incorrect with regard to the claims of recklessness.  The court holds that a reasonable jury could find that the failure to inspect resulted from a conscious disregard of the fire marshal’s statutory obligations.  The Appellate Court further directs the trial court, on remand, to reconsider its decision in view of a 2014 Connecticut Supreme Court case modifying the imminent harm exception to governmental immunity.

Williams v. Housing Authority of the City of Bridgeport, AC 36176 (September 15, 2015)