Chicago Fire, Elevator Accident, Highlights Winter Premises Liability Concerns

A resident’s death in a Chicago highrise fire is being blamed on the antiquated structure and an apartment door left open so a pet could escape. The resident died in the Chicago elevator accident, the Chicago Tribune reported. Fires are just one type of premises liability accident that can become more prevalent during the winter months.

In this case, the city did not require the older high-rise building to install automatic fire alarms or sensors that would have prevented the elevators from operating. The Tribune reports aldermen have delayed enforcement of fire reforms. But, in the wake of the accident, city officials are scrambling to push high-rise owners to speed up fire-safety improvements.

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Letters are going out to landlords urging them to become compliant with the city’s life safety evaluation ordinance in advance of the 2015 deadline. The ordinance had been scheduled to take effect to start the year, however City Council voted last month 49-0 to give high rise owners three more years to install the fire-safety systems in their buildings.

Owners have been complaining about the expense.

The fire department was alerted to the fire shortly after 2 a.m. Surveillance video shows the victim boarded the elevator in the lobby about the same time the 12th floor fire was reported. The 32-year-old victim died when the doors opened and she was hit with 1,500 degree temperatures.

The couple who owned the apartment that caught fire told investigators they propped their door open with a rug so their pets could escape. Firefighters say the open door prevented the fire from being contained to that unit. While the fire did not spread to other apartments, it filled the hallway with heat, gas and smoke.

The 35-year-old, 21-story building was built before 1975, and so did not have a sprinkler system installed. Nor was it required by law to have automatic fire alarms or elevator sensors. The city passed new regulations after a 2003 fire at the Cook County Administrative Building, which killed six people. However, high rises built before 1975 were exempt from the regulations.

Still the building in question is one of hundreds of vintage high rises that had been mandated to make improvements by the start of this year.

Other common causes of winter premises liability accidents in Chicago include slip & fall accidents due to unnatural accumulations of ice and negligent snow removal. Fires are obviously a serious hazard. Whether because an apartment resident does not follow the proper safety precautions with supplemental heaters, or because landlords fail to address unsafe, dangerous or antiquated building conditions.

Our Chicago premises liability attorneys have recently won compensation in several injury cases that occurred on private property. In one case, a homeowner hosed down his porch, creating a solid sheet of ice. The Chicago slip and fall accident resulted in a $100,000 settlement.

If you or a loved one has been injured on business or apartment property in Chicago, contact Abels & Annes for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.