In Washington County Circuit Court, a woman whose mother died in a 2006 fire is suing a tobacco company and the landlord of the property where the fatal accident occurred. Dawn Bunch’s Maryland wrongful death lawsuit is seeking $30 million against Barbara Bristow, who owns the property where she and her mother, Linda Ford, lived and Lorillard Tobacco Company.
Bunch is accusing the tobacco company of acting negligently when it manufactured, sold, and brought cigarettes into the marketplace—the product that caused her mother’s fatal injuries. She also accuses Lorillard of making a tobacco product that was an unreasonable fire risk. Bunch points out that the company could have made self-extinguishing cigarettes. As for defendant Bristow, the plaintiff alleges she breached the duty of care she owed her tenants when she failed to provide them with fire protection or warning devices in their mobile home rental.
Ford, 58, died after a fire broke out in her mattress and caused her hair to catch fire. She reportedly went looking for water to douse the flames but a maintenance worker had shut down the water at their mobile home.
Bunch was also injured in the fire. She was treated at a local Maryland hospital for smoke inhalation and second-degree burns. She is seeking $10 million for lost wages and earning capacity, medical expenses, pain, mental trauma, and disfigurement. She is also seeking $10 million for her mother’s physical pain and suffering, under Maryland’s Survival Statute, and $10 million, under Maryland’s Wrongful Death Statute, for mental anguish caused by her mother’s death, funeral costs, and exemplary and punitive damages.
Landlords owe their tenants a duty of care to make sure that a premise is safe to live in. When inadequate safety measures or hazards exist on the property that lead to injuries or death, the property owner or manager can be held liable under Maryland’s premises liability law.