A year and half after a mother and her two young children died in a house fire on Father’s Day on Ramrod Key, state investigators say they still haven’t nailed down the cause of the blaze.
But in an amended wrongful-death lawsuit brought against the homeowners and two companies on Dec. 5 in Monroe County Circuit Court, the family of the victims says a faulty electrical outlet ignited the flames and faulty windows didn’t allow the victims to escape.
Robin Ferrer, 46, son Roman, 7, and daughter Hazel, 5, died in the June 21, 2015, fire at 27452 Anguila Ln. The fire “started by a dangerously defective electrical outlet” that set a couch on fire, which spread through the stilt home, the lawsuit claims. The victims were not able to break the windows to get out.
Suing are James Ferrer, ex-husband of Robin and father of Roman and Hazel; Courtney Shores, sister of Roman and Hazel and daughter of Robin; and Jacob Shores, brother of Roman and Hazel and son of Robin.
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The defendants are Charles Roberts and Peter Madison, who leased the house to the Ferrers; West Window Corp. of Martinsville, Va., which manufactured the windows in the master bedroom, playroom and bathroom; and Pass and Seymour Inc., based in New York, which manufactured the outlet.
The suit alleges that on the day of the fire, the outlet “began arcing” and “spewed sparks and molten plasma onto an immediately adjacent couch, setting it ablaze. From the couch, the fire spread rapidly, transforming the house into a labyrinth of deadly flames and thick, toxic smoke.”
Robin Ferrer had been in the bedroom and when she realized the house was ablaze. She alerted both Shores and told them to get out of the house. Then she went to get Roman and Hazel, who had also been in the bedroom. But by that time, she could not get to the front door and “the fire had raged into the hallway,” blocking Robin, Roman and Hazel’s path, the lawsuit says.
The Shores did get out of the house and tried to rescue their family members, to no avail. Jacob Shores was severely burned in his rescue efforts and was hospitalized in Miami for a lengthy time.
“Because flames and smoke had engulfed the hallway between Robin’s bedroom and the front door and despite knowing that the windows in all likelihood could not be opened, she turned to the windows in her bedroom and nearby playroom and bathroom as her only hope of escape,” the suit says.
All of those windows “should have provided egress,” the suit says. West Window, however, “had designed and manufactured the windows in a defective manner” that didn’t allow them to open. They were “essentially stuck frozen shut,” it says.
“Unable to get far enough into the house to reach their family, Courtney and Jacob could hear the screams of Robin, Roman and Hazel near the windows. Courtney and Jacob tried to break the windows from the outside...,” the suit says.
The allegations against Pass and Seymour are defective product design, failure to warn of dangers and negligence. The claims against West Window are defective product design and manufacturing, failure to warn of dangers, negligence and violating the Florida Building Code.
The claims against Roberts and Madison are “breach of statutory warranty of habitability,” violating the Florida Building Code and negligence.
As for the state investigation, which falls to the state Department of Financial Services, “At this time, our investigation remains open and ongoing as the department’s Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations works to thoroughly evaluate each and every circumstance while reviewing all possible leads surrounding the cause and nature of this tragic fire incident,” spokesman Jon Moore said Thursday
Larry Kahn: 305-440-3218