Tenant’s Fire-Injury Claim Goes To Trial

9 East 36th Street. Image credit: CityLaw.

Tenant sued landlord over fire in his rent-stabilized apartment that had allegedly originated from inadequate wiring. James Daly, the tenant of a rent-stabilized studio apartment located at 9 East 36th Street in Manhattan, suffered injuries from a fire that occurred on June 19, 2013. The apartment, built in the 1930s, was 700 square feet consisting of a living area, a gallery kitchen, three closets, a bathroom, and a hall connecting the gallery kitchen to the bathroom. There were a total of seven electrical outlets in the apartment; three in the living area, two in the gallery kitchen, one in the hall, and one in the bathroom.

Daly used six to eight extension cords throughout his apartment. Two or three of these extension cords were used in the living area.

On June 19, 2013, Daly went to bed at 7:00 p.m. He left the television, VCR, a lamp, and a fan plugged into the extension cords located in the living area. Daly later awoke in the burn unit of NY Presbyterian Weill Cornell. Daly suffered injuries from a fire that erupted in his apartment, but had no recollection of the fire. According to the fire marshal’s report, the fire had originated in the apartment’s living area in an area of electrical wiring.

Daly sued the owner of the building alleging that the fire was caused by the owner’s failure to upgrade the electricity in his apartment. Daly alleged that he had made several requests to the building superintendent for more outlets, and had told the building superintendent that the fuses in the apartment would blow once or twice a week and that the extension cords would heat up after one hour’s use. According to the building superintendent, the owner had been informed of Daly’s complaints, but refused to make the repairs.

The owner of the building defended by contending that Daly’s improper use of extension cords caused the fire, not the apartment’s electrical wiring, and that the wiring met applicable code standards. The Supreme Court agreed with the owner and dismissed the complaint.

On appeal to the Appellate Division, First Department, the court agreed with the tenant Daly and sent the case back for trial. The court ruled that an owner of property has a nondelegable duty to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition, taking into account the foreseeability of injury to others. The court found that there were triable issues as to whether the building owner was aware that a dangerous condition existed in Daly’s apartment and had failed to upgrade the electricity in order to keep the apartment reasonably safe.


Daly v. 9 East 36th LLC, 153 A.D.3d 1145 (1st Dep’t 2017) (Attorneys: Ephrem J. Wertenteil, for Daly; Joanne Filiberti, for Owner).


By: Jeannie Calcano (Jeannie is a New York Law School Student, Class of 2019.)

One thought on “Tenant’s Fire-Injury Claim Goes To Trial

  1. If the LL had inspected the apartment he would have detached all extension cords and cut them in half to render them inoperable. That would suffice as upgrading to standard.

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