Landlord named in wrongful death lawsuit files motion to dismiss

By Christina Stueve | Apr 30, 2012

A Roxana landlord who is being sued in Madison County for negligence and wrongful death after a fatal apartment fire has filed a motion to dismiss.

A Roxana landlord who is being sued in Madison County for negligence and wrongful death after a fatal apartment fire has filed a motion to dismiss.

Defense attorney William B. Starnes of Reed Armstrong Mudge & Morrissey wrote that Tiffany Gresham's lawsuit against Dawson Cooper does not allege a condition that presented an unreasonable risk on the property, or that the defendant should have known the risk.

Starnes also wrote that Gresham's complaint does not allege the defendant could expect people would not realize the danger or would fail to protect themselves against such danger.

According to Gresham's lawsuit filed April 9, the apartment fire killed two of her children and caused her personal injuries.

Gresham claims the East Third Street property was split into three apartments, two on the first floor and one on the second, according to the complaint. Gresham says she and her children moved into the apartment in 2010.

On Feb. 5, 2011, Gresham says the house was destroyed by fire, and her two children, ages 5 and 6, died. Gresham contends a faulty stove, electrical gas line problems and missing or malfunctioning smoke detectors were at fault.

Gresham alleges Cooper failed to properly install electrical and gas lines, failed to inspect or maintain the stove in the upstairs apartment, failed to warn the tenants about the risk of fire and failed to install and maintain the proper number of smoke alarms in the unit.

Gresham says she suffered smoke inhalation during the fire and has "lost the ability to lead a normal life." She says she also endured pain and disfigurement. She accuses Cooper of negligence and is asking to for more than $50,000.

Plaintiff Tony Leeds, the special administrator for the estates of Gresham's deceased children, also accuses Cooper of wrongful death. He says the 5-year-old and 6-year-old were asleep when the fire began, and both allegedly suffered smoke inhalation and died.

Leeds says the deaths of Sky Nichole and Jason Matthew caused their parents and younger siblings grief, sorrow and mental suffering. Leeds is asking for more than $100,000 in damages for the wrongful death claim.

Attorneys Judy L. Cates and Ryan J. Mahoney of The Cates Law Firm in Swansea represent Gresham and Leeds.

Cates is the Democratic candidate in the Fifth District Appellate Court.

Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge is assigned to the case.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 2012-L-434.

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