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Jackson Citizen Patriot
By Fredricka Paul
July 31, 2009
The mother of a 14-month-old boy who was burned in a fire last week has filed a civil lawsuit against her former landlord claiming he was negligent in keeping the property up to code.
Ann Miller's lawsuit seeking unspecified damages against Herbert Christopher was filed Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court.
On July 22, Haydon Miller was in the kitchen at their apartment at 5291?2 Blackstone St. when a fire started because of a possible malfunction in the gas stove or the gas lines supplying it, according to interim Jackson Fire Deputy Chief David Wooden.
Haydon was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor with burns on 30 percent of his body and released the next night.
"This type of case highlights a number of things for the community about the responsibility a landlord has to the families that rent their property," said Miller's lawyer, Mark Bernstein.
"This was a horrible tragedy. It could have been a lot worse, but it should have never happened in the first place."
After the fire, investigators found several violations and condemned the building. Christopher's other tenants had to seek new housing even though their apartments were not damaged by the fire.
Christopher declined to comment Wednesday, saying he had not received any paperwork and did not have a lawyer. Efforts to reach him Thursday were unsuccessful.
Bernstein said Christopher's "negligent careless maintenance" of the property was to blame for the fire.
"If it was maintained properly, it would not have happened in the first place," he said. "No amount of money will turn back the clock."
No trial date has been set. If the case goes to trial, a jury would decide how much Miller would be awarded.
Miller said she and her family moved into the apartment Feb. 2.
"I want to let people know, make sure you know how your landlord is," she said. "I wish I would have done that now.
"I regret even moving into that place."
Haydon is recovering well, Miller said. Most of his burns are healed, except for third-degree burns on his leg.
Doctors told Miller it could take a year to know how badly Haydon's leg will be scarred and if a skin graft will be needed.
Miller said she has not moved into a new home and is staying at a motel. She is hoping to move into a new home by the end of the week.
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