Todd Henningsen just settled a
wrongful death claim of an elderly man for $1,000,000.00 on the eve of trial. Henningsen
Injury Attorneys, in conjunction with another
Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer, Michael L. Neff, Esq., were able to successfully convince the defense to
offer $1,000,000.00 just days before the trial was set to begin. The death occurred as a result of a fire in an apartment in the basement.
This was an extremely hard fought legal battle in which the defense never
made an offer of settlement until just weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin.
After multiple rounds of negotiations, we were able to convince the defense
that their best option was to settle the claim without the necessity of
a trial. Although there is no amount of money that can ever take away
the pain from the victim's family, we truly believe that this result
honors the memory of a man whose life was tragically cut short.
A short synopsis of the case is outlined below.
Details of the Case
The decedent lived in a basement apartment with his wife who was a housekeeper
for a wealthy family. The home was approximately 10,000 square feet located
in Sandy Springs. On January 9, 2010, at approximately 3:00 p.m. fire
broke out in the basement apartment area. The decedent was last seen at
approximately 2:00 p.m. sleeping on the bed in the basement apartment.
The fire set off the smoke alarms in the house and both the homeowner
and the decedent’s wife tried to save the decedent but the smoke
was too thick for them to make entry into the apartment area.
Firefighters were on the scene within minutes, but the smoke and heat were
too much for them to locate the decedent. Within minutes of the fire department’s
arrival, the basement apartment “flashed over” and basically
everything in the room caught fire. Ultimately the firefighters were able
to control the blaze and when they made entry into the apartment they
found the decedent in the bathroom. It was later determined that he had
died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The fire investigators from Sandy Springs as well as those hired by the
insurance company were unable to determine the cause of the fire. The
usual suspects such as the furnace, can lights, wiring, etc. were ruled
out so the official cause of the fire remained undetermined.
The building codes require that every “sleeping area” have
a primary and secondary means of egress. This is not only to allow the
occupants of the room to escape, but also to allow rescue personnel access
in the event of an emergency. The sleeping area in the basement apartment
did not have a primary means of egress so we focused liability on this
code violation. After further research we also determined that there was
a furnace closet in the basement apartment and that too was a code violation
that allowed the fire to spread more rapidly. Thus, with two separate
code violations we believed that we had enough to be successful on the claim.
The defense fought us on every aspect of this case. They argued that there
was no code violation because we could not establish that the decedent
was in the sleeping area when the fire started because he was ultimately
found in the bathroom. They also argued that even if there was a code
violation, it did not matter because there is no way that the decedent
could have survived the fire. The defense justified this argument through
their fire expert who held the opinion that the way in which the fire
spread prevented the survival regardless of any code violations. To refute
the defense’s contentions we had a code expert and a fire safety
expert who obviously opined that the proximate cause of death was the
On the damages portion the defense argued that the decedent’s health
and advanced age should hold the value of the claim down. We hired a psychologist
to refute the defense’s assertions regarding the decedent’s
mental condition as well as the coroner to talk about the cause of death.
Because we did not have anything to put in front of the jury regarding
the economic loss associated with the decedent’s death, we focused
the damages on the pre-death pain and suffering of the decedent. Mike
was able to establish that the decedent lived for approximately 15 minutes
before he succumbed to the carbon monoxide.
We are honored that the family put their faith in trust in us to help them
through this tragedy. As a wrongful death attorney in Atlanta, we understand
the sorrow and pain that occurs when someone's life is tragically
If you have lost a loved one due to another's negligence or reckless
call Henningsen Injury Attorneys, P.C. for representation in Atlanta.
Free consultation offered.