Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Over House Fire

The family of a young woman who died after a fire was sparked at a house party have filed a civil lawsuit against the owner of the house, the management company, tenants and several who attended the party. Kristen Richardson, 22, was seriously injured in the fire, and a month later, she succumbed to her injuries.

Richardson’s mother, Lisa Earles, and father, John Richardson, filed the wrongful death suit claiming homeowner Gina Rhodes and management company Home Advantage Properties kept the property in poor condition and noticed but never acted on lease violations that posed “a threat of foreseeable harm” to the property, according to the suit. In a “unique” rental situation the rent was divided among six people, some of whom were not on the lease; smoking and drug violations occurred; and there were other code violations that went unnoticed, the suit alleges. When the fire broke out, according to the suit, the smoke alarms did not go off since they were removed, broken or did not contain working batteries.

Richardson, the suit alleges, ran through the flames to get outside. She was transported to a local hospital, where she suffered from burn injuries while unconscious for weeks before dying. No criminal charges have been filed because of the fire. Yet the suit claims that partygoers failed to alert Richardson of the fire, and they did not call 911 in a timely fashion.

The management company alerted the tenants in February, more than a month before the fire, that they were not honoring the lease agreement. Among other violations, they had “unauthorized” people living in the house, improper use of non-living space and had been smoking and using drugs in the house. Oddly, despite the violations, the tenants were not evicted.

“These multiple acts, failures, violations and breaches provided adequate and timely notice to owner-manager defendants that there were improper, foreseeable dangerous and unsafe conditions existing at the Skyview property,” the suit says.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation for Earles and John Richardson’s pain and suffering, in addition to compensation for their daughter’s lost earning capacity. The family incurred significant medical bills while Kristen Richardson was hospitalized after the incident.