Bronx Fire Victims File First Lawsuit Against Tower Owners

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Complaint seeks class-action status for victims and up to $3 billion in damages

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A malfunctioning door, which failed to swing, intensified the spread of smoke after the fire broke out in the third-floor unit and the family escaped safely, officials said.

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Rosa Reyes and Felix Martinez, the lead plaintiffs, are seeking $1 billion in compensatory damages for themselves and other fire victims, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Bronx Supreme Court. The lawsuit also seeks class-action status, alleging that those affected are collectively entitled to $2 billion in punitive damages.

The defendants named in the lawsuit include the building’s current joint venture owner, Bronx Park Phase III Preservation LLC, and three of its member companies, as well as the former owners who sold the 19-story property in 2019.

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The lawsuit alleges that the building’s landlord failed to ensure that the steel, fireproof doors remained functional and that fire alarms functioned properly or provided adequate heat, among other things.

Plaintiffs’ attorney, Robert Wilensky, also filed a notice of claim against the city on Tuesday, indicating its intent to demand another $1 billion for those involved in the class-action case.

“No number is enough,” said Mr Wilensky.

Bronx Park Phase III Preservation spokeswoman Kelly Magee said the company was fully cooperating with the city’s investigation of the fire.

“We are devastated by this terrible tragedy,” she said in an emailed statement. He did not comment on the lawsuit.

A notice of claim, filed with the city’s comptroller’s office, names the Department of Buildings and the Department of Housing, Conservation and Development as well as former Mayor Bill de Blasio, among other officials, as defendants.

The claim said the city “failed in every way” to ensure that landlords provided working self-closing doors, which are required by New York City law.

City Law Department spokesman Nicolas Paolucci said the plaintiff’s claim was being reviewed while the investigation into the fire was ongoing.

Mr Wilensky said he expects his claim against the city to be turned into a Bronx class-action suit as both cases move forward. He said he already has 22 litigants who have joined the lawsuit against the building owners and expects that number to increase.

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