Belleville residents sue apartment owners over neighbor's alleged tendency to start fires

By The Madison County Record | Jul 21, 2014

A man and woman accused their neighbor of accidentally setting their complex on fire, the second time she has started a fire in an apartment building, according to a recently filed lawsuit.

John Moore and Pat Hazen filed a lawsuit July 8 in the St. Clair County Circuit Court against Crooke Development and Westland Limited Partnership.

In their complaint, Moore and Hazen claim Moore was living in an apartment at 112 Oak Hill Drive in Belleville. In 2010, Jean Joseph moved into a neighboring apartment. In July of 2012, Joseph left a grill unattended on her deck located below Moore’s apartment, which caused a fire, according to the complaint.

The first fire, which killed Joseph’s husband Dec. 23, 2009, occurred after Joseph lit charcoal using lighter fluid in a fireplace in her apartment, the suit states. Following the initial fire, Joseph moved into the Oak Hill apartment.

Moore contends Joseph should never have been allowed to move into his apartment complex because she had started a fire at her previous residence.

The defendants should have known Joseph was a fire risk to other tenants and should not have rented to her or advised her to not start a fire in a grill on her deck and advised the plaintiffs and other renters and future renters of her past and possible actions and posted rules and regulations concerning fire safety procedures and what to do to be safe and what not to do to be at risk, the complaint says.

Because of the fire, Moore claims he lost belongings.

Moore blames the defendants for allowing the fire to occur, saying they negligently failed to check Joseph’s background or failed to reveal her background to Moore and rented her an apartment even though they knew she imposed a threat to Moore and other residents of the apartment complex.

In addition, Crooke Development and Westland Limited Partnership should have posted safety regulations and rules, yet failed to provide any warning in any form to advise Moore of the unsafe fire risks presented by Joseph’s presence, failed to take responsibility for the fire through the lease and violated the Belleville Municipal Code, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs seek compensation for their losses of about $600,000 and other relief the court deems just. John Moore and Patrician Bazen of Belleville will be appearing pro se.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 14-L-539.

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