| Posted by Stevenson Whelton LLP
December 01, 2019
A Milton court awarded the parents of a 24-year-old woman who died in a Toronto house fire over $1.3 Million in wrongful death damages. The tragic accident occurred when the house became inflamed by fire and the young woman, Alisha Lamers, who lived in the basement apartment, was unable to escape. The scene of the accident was an illegal rooming house in Brockton Village, Toronto, and the owner breached 10 safety requirements under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, including bars on the basement windows, only one working fire alarm in the building, and no second exit.
Ms. Lamers became trapped in her apartment during the fire and was unconscious and badly burned when firefighters carried her out of the building. She had no vital signs when emergency medical personnel arrived; they were able to revive her, but damage due to lack of oxygen to her brain was too severe and she passed away in hospital three days later. The rooming house contained 4 units and the other 7 occupants escaped without injury.
Before the lawsuit was resolved, the rooming house owner, Konstantin Lysenko and his company, Canada Corp., were found guilty of several fire code violations and fined $75,000. Lysenko was also given an 18-month probation sentence. Lysenko represented himself in the lawsuit and when cross-examined, admitted that “it was stupid” not to remove the bars on the basement windows. He also testified that he wasn’t aware that he needed a licence for a rooming house or that the property had to meet fire code regulations.
The jury found Lysenko negligent and responsible for the death for the following reasons:
- Not maintaining sufficient working smoke alarms
- Failing to provide and implement a safety plan in the building
- Not providing a minimum of two exits on every floor of the house
The wrongful death award in the Lamers case represents a high-end award for general damages in personal injury judgements. Both of Lamers’ parents were each awarded $250,000 in damages for loss of care, guidance and companionship, as well as $250,000 for mental distress or injury. They also each received over $150,000 for future cost of care.
Lamers parents said that they hope that this judgement will deter other landlords from operating an unsafe rooming house. According to a recent CBC News report, there have been over 532 rooming house fires in Canada and 47 related deaths, in the past five years.
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