Houseguest responsible for apartment fire
I allowed a friend to stay at my apartment while I was away for 10 days. He started a fire after putting oil on the stove and went and laid down. He was not injured but the apartment was destroyed and my belongings were ruined by smoke and soot. The only insurance I had was liability for the apartment but no property insurance. I am also without a place to live. Is there anything I can do to get him to pay for the damage he has done?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: Houseguest responsible for apartment fire
I'm very sorry to hear of your problem. At least no one was hurt.
First, ask your friend if he has any insurance that might cover the damage, such as homeowner's or renter's insurance that might cover him if he is living in another apartment. (It's a long shot, but worth asking.) If not, the only thing you can do if he won't pay is sue him. (If it's a small amount, small claims court might do. But it probably is a significant sum.) If it comes to that, let him know that is what you are planning on and offer a settlement. Perhaps ask him to pay for 75% of the damage, and let him pay it off in three of four installments. If you reach a settlement, put it in writing and have both of you sign it. If not, get an attorney who handles tort cases (that includes negligence which your friend is guilty of). You can get a referral from the Florida Bar.
One other thought is to make a claim against the apartment complex if the apartment does not have a sprinkler system and/or smoke alarm. If the county code where you are requires those things, then the apartment complex arguably is liable as well. If you sue them, they would undoubtedly include your friend in the lawsuit as a responsible party as well.
Jeffrey L. Sheldon, Esquire
The Sheldon Law Firm
17804 St. Lucia Isle Drive
Tampa, FL 33647
(Admitted in Fl., MD, D.C., and Pa.)
Disclaimer: This posting does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. It is not confidential, nor is it privileged, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult with an attorney for advice specific to the facts of your case.
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