Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

First wrongful death lawsuit filed over fatal Pennsylvania fire

Some Pittsburgh liability lawsuits allege a defendant's negligence contributed to a person's death and losses to family members. State laws set plaintiff eligibility guidelines in wrongful death actions. Surviving spouses, children and parents have rights to file, as do personal representatives of the decedent's estate for beneficiaries.

A fire last year in Emmaus, Lehigh County, killed four people. Three people occupied a third-floor apartment where the fire broke out. The fourth victim was a woman who lived in a rental unit on the floor below.

A wrongful death lawsuit recently was filed by the brother of the second-floor tenant, claiming that the off-site landlords neglected to install adequate and functional smoke alarms. The sibling filed as executor of the victim's estate on his own behalf and those of his three siblings and mother. The complaint also alleged that the tenants' building did not have operating fire escapes or the proper permits and inspections.

The March 2013 fire killed the executor's 56-year-old sister, who shared a rental with a boyfriend. The boyfriend escaped, but the woman apparently stayed behind to get dressed. Her body was found in the bathroom.

Three people died on the floor above in an apartment rented by a 48-year-old woman and her 65-year-old boyfriend. The woman's son, age 16, also lived there. The woman and teen's family also is preparing a negligence action.

The landlords are Macungie residents, who apparently had not filed required local permits that would have generated building inspections by borough officials. County inspectors last visited the apartment building in August 2012, as part of the Section 8 housing approval process. Records show that the building passed a county inspection seven months before the deadly fire.

Liability lawsuits define the "duty of care" a defendant has toward an individual. Defendant negligence resulting in injuries and deaths is penalized by compensating victims or, in wrongful death cases, family members or beneficiaries.

Source:, "Family Sues Pa. Landlords Over 2013 Fire That Killed Four" Patrick Lester, The Morning Call, Apr. 24, 2014

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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