Suit filed over lack of smoke detectors in fire

The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore man whose fiancee, child and another family member perished in a fire last month filed a $52.3 million lawsuit yesterday against the apartment-building management that he said failed to install potentially life-saving smoke detectors in their home.

The lawsuit, filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, names Salomon Rosskamn of the Blue Fountain Apartments as the defendant. Rosskamn could not be reached for comment yesterday.

At a news conference, Roy E. Riley Jr., 28, said he was left homeless after the July 14 fire in an apartment in the 1900 block of N. Forest Ave. in Franklintown. His pregnant fiancee, Raheem Rasheedah Muhammad, 28, and their son, Royelle Edward Riley, 9, died in the blaze. Muhammad's niece, Markia Summerfield, 7, who was visiting for the weekend, also died. She is not named in the lawsuit.

"This fire was easily preventable had a smoke detector been in Mr. Riley's apartment," said Riley's attorney, David Ellin.

The lawyer said he hoped the lawsuit would prompt other landlords to "instead of trying to save a few bucks, they might try to save a few lives."

The lawsuit alleges that of the 12 apartments in the building, three had smoke detectors, and only two of those were working. The remaining apartments had no smoke detectors, the lawsuit says.

Chief Kevin Cartwright, city Fire Department spokesman, said yesterday that the cause of the fire is under investigation.

The spokesman had confirmed after the fire that the apartment where the three people died did not have a smoke detector.

The lawsuit said that because of the fire and deaths, Riley suffered "severe shock to his nerves and nervous system."

He lost clothing, furniture, home electronics and appliances, as well as possessions that cannot be replaced, such as family photographs and mementos, the suit says.

Riley, an electrician, said the fire left him, "destroyed. Hurt. I will always feel pain."


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