$1,750,000 Verdict in Hammond, IN
A young four-year old child died in a morning house fire where the landlord failed to provide adequate working smoke detectors in the rented house. The family had been living in the rented house for a few weeks.
The landlord's defense team alleged the house fire was caused by negligent cooking, but there was no evidence to support the allegation. The defense team also alleged that adequate smoke detectors had been supplied.
It was difficult to dis-prove this allegation because the Indiana Insurance Company adjusters and investigators had traveled to the house a few days after the fire and absconded with all the appliances and smoke detectors.
But, Attorney Jeff Shaw and David Phillips led the team of plaintiff's attorneys on an inspection of the burnt-out remains of the house soon after the fire. They were able to locate the charred remains of single smoke detector on the main level under a pile of charred debris and found a battery inside.
But, what could be done with that?
We decided to investigate forensically further. On the battery (and on each battery) was a serious of numbers with a UL logo.
The battery was sent to Underwriters' Laboratories where it was determined to be over 10 years old. The landlord had supplied smoke detectors that didn't work.
The jury found for the mother of the deceased child and awarded damages of $1.75M, making it the record largest individual verdict in the State of Indiana versus a single landlord at that time.