A recent decision from the Alabama Supreme Court permits a lawsuit, arising from an apartment fire, to go forward. In Collins v. Scenic Homes, Inc., a fire caused death of one tenant and serious injuries to others. The tenants argued that the apartment complex had not been provided with adequate fire-suppression safeguards or fire escape routes. The companies who built and maintained the apartments, however, argued that, because the fire had been intentionally set by an arsonist, this was an “intervening criminal act,” that under Alabama law, meant that the companies were not responsible, even if they were negligent. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed with the tenants, stating that the companies had a duty to construct and operate a reasonably safe apartment building, equipped with appropriate exits and fire-suppression safeguards designed to reduce the risk of injury from a fire, regardless of the origin of the fire. It is a foreseeable risk that an apartment complex fire, however started, can cause harm to the tenants if there are inadequate fire-suppression safeguards and fire-escape routes. For further discussion of Alabama law concerning premises liability see Chapter 8, and for further discussion of Alabama law concerning intervening criminal acts in negligence cases, see Chapter 11, in Alabama Tort Law.
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