Court freezes Portland landlord’s assets in lawsuit over fire that killed six
The $1.7 million worth of property will probably be needed to pay damages to a victim’s family, says the judge in a case that reveals new details about Maine’s deadliest fire in 40 years.
A Superior Court judge has ruled that the wife and children of a Rockland man who was one of six people killed in last month’s apartment house fire in Portland likely would receive a judgment against the building’s landlord. The judge ordered a freeze on $1.7 million of the landlord’s real estate assets in Cumberland County in case they’re needed to pay out any future claims.
The preliminary ruling is based partly on statements by fire survivors who said the building lacked working smoke alarms and had a blocked exit, and on details about how Steven Summers suffered severe burns and was conscious for several days before he died.
The judge’s order was issued Tuesday without a response from the defendant, landlord Gregory Nisbet, who has 21 days to appeal. It does not represent a final judgment in the civil lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 21.
“It is more likely than not that in this action the plaintiff will recover judgment, including interest and costs, in an amount not less than $1.7 million,” Justice Joyce Wheeler wrote in the order.
The suit is the first to result from Maine’s deadliest fire in 40 years. The fast-moving blaze that started early on Nov. 1 remains under investigation.
Sworn statements contained in court records from a former tenant and two people who survived the fire indicate there were no smoke detectors installed at 20 Noyes St. and a bookcase blocked a back stairway, forcing survivors to jump from a second-story window.
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