I represented the parents of two boys who perished in a house fire in Montgomery County, Maryland. The boys were sleeping at a neighbor’s home during a power outage. A teenage boy left a candle burning in the basement before he went to bed. This candle ignited a fire. Two boys were able to escape from the burning basement with relatively minor injuries. Another boy, who was rescued by a firefighter wearing full protective gear, lost both legs due to third degree burns. My clients’ sons perished from smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation. They had been sleeping in a basement room without any windows.
There were many parties who were at fault in causing the deaths of the children. The teenage occupant of the home should have extinguished the candle before going to bed. The adults, who rented the home, should have carefully supervised the use of candles by their children and minor house guests during the power outage. The landlord should not prohibited the tenants from using a basement room without a window as a sleeping area. The City of Gaithersburg, which licensed the rental of the home and had inspected the home several weeks before the fire, should have warned the tenants and landlords not to use the basement room as a sleeping area due to the lack of a window. The home builder should have instructed the electricians to install dual-power (AC with a battery back-up) smoke detectors rather than AC-powered smoke detectors. The electrician, who installed the AC-powered smoke detectors, should have advised the home builder to install dual-power smoke detectors. The manufacturer of the smoke detectors should have placed a prominent warning on the smoke detectors that they would not operate during a power outage.
My clients were able to reach settlements with all of the parties that contributed to the deaths of their children. As a result of this house fire, sellers of homes in Maryland are now required to disclose to buyers whether their smoke detectors will function during a power outage. See Maryland Real Property Code section 10-702(e)(2)(ix). All homes constructed after July 1, 1990must have dual-power smoke detectors. MarylandArticle 38A, § 12A(p).
Members of the victims family in wrongful death cases are entitled to many different types of damages, including: (a) medical bills incurred; (b) the decedent’s pain and suffering; (c) the decedent’s lost wages; and (d) loss of companionship.
As of October 1, 2011, parents’ non-economic damages (pain and suffering) are capped at $1,132,500 for the death of a minor child; and this limit is increased by $22,500 on October 1st of each succeeding year.
For the wrongful death of an adult, the suvivor’s non-economic damages (pain and suffer) are capped at $755,000 as of October 1, 2011; and this limit is increased by $15,000 on October 1st of each succeeding year. The decedent’s pre-death pain and suffering has the same cap on damages.
In medical malpractice cases in Maryland, there are different statutory caps on non-economic damages.