Peter J. Flowers And Michael W. Lenert Recover $5 Million For Chicago Firefighter Killed In Line Of Duty
On March 31, 2017, after more than five years of litigation, the Court approved a $5 million settlement secured by Peter J. Flowers and Michael W. Lenert, partners at Meyers & Flowers, for the adult children of a Chicago Firefighter killed in the line of duty. Firefighter E.S. suffered severe and permanent injuries resulting in his death on December 22, 2010, after a total collapse of the timber truss roof of an abandoned commercial property in Chicago.
The Plaintiff alleged that the lender of the building, Apex Mortgage Corporation, had taken possession and control of the commercial property and was aware of the distressed and dangerous condition of the property, yet failed to address any of its problems due to concerns that it would not recoup its financial interest in the property.
“This is a classic example of a financial institution placing its profits above the safety of every person that walked inside that building. Apex could have avoided this tragedy had it simply done what was right. Unfortunately, Apex, like many other financial institutions, chose to look the other way in order to protect its pocketbook above all else,” said Peter J. Flowers.
On December 22, 2010, at about 6:52 am, Chicago firefighters, including Firefighter E.S., responded to a small rubbish fire at an abandoned commercial property on E. 75th Street in Chicago. After quickly extinguishing the fire, the firefighters performed a search and rescue to determine if there were people inside of the building. While performing their search and rescue, the east wall of the property collapsed causing a total collapse of the timber truss roof onto the firefighters. E.S. and another firefighter were killed, and more than a dozen others were injured in the collapse.
Apex Mortgage Corporation held a mortgage on the property since 2000. In 2008, the mortgage on the property was in default and Apex began discussions with the property owners to accept a deed in lieu of foreclosure. After receiving signed deed in lieu of foreclosure documents from the property owners, Apex obtained an appraisal for the property, cleaned out and boarded up the property, and changed the locks on the property. In addition, contrary to its repeated denials throughout the litigation, Plaintiff discovered that Apex submitted a property loss insurance claim for a partial roof collapse with its force-placed insurance carrier shortly after obtaining the signed deed in lieu documents.
Apex’s insurance claim for a partial roof collapse was denied as an independent engineer found the condition of the roof to be the result of severe rotting and deterioration. Despite being advised that portions of the roof were rotted to the extent that the roof could not support its own weight, Apex took no steps to repair the property nor did it provide a copy of the engineering report to the building owners.
From the outset, Apex denied that it ever possessed the property and argued that its acts were nothing more than an attempt to preserve the value of its collateral. Apex further maintained that it immediately notified the property owners of its rejection of the deed in lieu of foreclosure and took no further action with respect to the property after discovering the full extent of the property's structural issues in April 2009, more than eighteen months before the December 22, 2010, collapse.
The Plaintiff intended to prove at trial that Apex Mortgage Corporation owed firefighter E.S. a duty of care on December 22, 2010, as it had taken possession and control of the property beginning in 2008.
According to attorney Michael W. Lenert, "Despite being intimately familiar with the property's significant structural issues for more than eighteen months, Apex refused to take any remedial measures as it apparently did not believe it had any financial incentive to do so. We must continue to hold entities such as Apex accountable when they have every opportunity to avoid such tragedies, but instead, do nothing."
Firefighter E.S. was survived by his two adult children, Jennifer, 29, and Edward, Jr., 35. According to Michael Lenert, "It was an honor to represent Jennifer and her brother. From the first time I met Jennifer, she made it clear that her primary concern was to ensure greater protections for those who risk their lives for us daily. Unfortunately, it is far too common that our first responders are being unnecessarily placed in harm’s way because mortgage companies such as Apex refuse to make necessary repairs to their properties. Although this recovery will never bring their father back, my clients are confident that this settlement will place other lenders on notice that such nonfeasance will not be tolerated."
Meyers & Flowers long history of success in premises liability litigation comes from our dedication to helping protect the rights of those injured or harmed in such cases. For more information on how we can help you or a family member contact us here or by phone at 877-221-2511.