On March 31, 2017, the Court approved a $10 Million settlement secured by Joseph A. Power Jr. and Carolyn Daley for the death of a Chicago Firefighter killed in a building collapse on December 22, 2010. Plaintiff maintained that Apex Mortgage Corporation had taken possession and control of the property where the building collapsed, was aware of the distressed and dangerous condition of the property, and yet failed to fix any of the problems at the building because it would not be able to get its money back out of the property that it held a mortgage on. After five and a half years of litigation, Apex Mortgage Corporation agreed to pay the $10 million settlement for the death of Firefighter C.A. who was 34 years old at the time of his death and left surviving him a wife and a one year old son.
On December 22, 2010, at about 6:52am, a small rubbish fire occurred in a property on E. 75th Street and the Chicago Fire Department responded. Firefighters, including C.A., forced entry into the Property to determine whether or not there were people inside the Property. While inside the Property, the east wall of the Property failed causing a total collapse of the timber truss roof onto firefighters, including C.A. As a result of the collapse of the timber truss roof, C.A. suffered severe and permanent injuries resulting in his death on December 22, 2010.
The Property at issue was owned by Defendants Chuck and Richard Dai and on February 28, 2000, Defendant Apex Mortgage Corporation entered into a Mortgage Security Agreement with the Dais for the Property. In 2008, the mortgage on the Property was in default and Apex began discussions with the Dais to accept a deed in lieu of foreclosure. After receiving the signed deed in lieu of foreclosure documents from the Dais, Apex hired a real estate broker to assess the Property, change the locks, clean out the Property, and board up the Property.
Upon inspection, the real estate broker determined that the Property was in poor condition. Apex subsequently made a loss claim with the insurance company it had force placed insurance with for a partial roof collapse at the Property. The claim was subsequently denied and Apex was provided with an engineer’s report of the Property from the insurance company which stated that the condition of the roof was a result of chronic lack of maintenance and total rotting having occurred of the roof beams.
Throughout this time period, there was a City of Chicago Housing Court action for the numerous code violations at the Property. Apex and the Dais were defendants in the Housing Court Action. As a result of that action, Apex aware of the numerous code violations, including structural concerns with the roof and the walls at the Property. In the Housing Court action, the City of Chicago entered into a consent order with the owner of the Property, Chuck Dai, in October 2009 to repair, sell, or demolish the property by November 2010. Chuck Dai did not comply with the consent order at any time prior to December 22, 2010. Chuck Dai was prosecuted by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office for indirect criminal contempt for failure to comply with the consent order from the Housing Court case. Chuck Dai ultimately plead guilty and was sentenced to 6 months in Cook County Jail.
Apex denied that it took possession of the Property and argued that it rejected the deed in lieu of foreclosure in April of 2009 via letter sent to the Dais. However, the Dais testified at their depositions that they never received these letters and Apex’s attorney had no confirmation that in fact the letters had been served.
Plaintiff intended to prove at trial that Apex Mortgage Corporation had taken possession and control of the Property beginning in 2008. It was aware of the severe and dangerous structural problems and code violations at the Property, but Apex failed to do anything to remedy any of the conditions at the Property putting every person who walked into the Property in harm’s way, including Firefighter C.A. on December 22, 2010.
“This was a preventable tragedy had Apex Mortgage Corporation repaired the condition at the Property or demolished it when it became aware of the significant and dangerous structural problems at the building more than a year and a half before the collapse,” said Carolyn Daley Scott. “Instead of fixing the problem and implanting a maintenance plan as was suggested by the engineer’s report Apex was provided more than a year before the collapse, Apex chose to walk away from the property because it was concerned it would not get its money out of the property.” According to Joseph A. Power, Jr, founding partner of Power Rogers, LLP, “Apex put money over the safety of every person that walked in that building, including Firefighter C.A. Mortgage companies should be held accountable when they take possession of a property with significant structural problems, yet do nothing to remedy it and someone is injured or killed as a result.” “It was an honor to represent our client and her son. While this settlement cannot undo the tragic events that led to the death of Firefighter C.A., our client believes that justice has been served,” added Carolyn Daley Scott.
Firefighter E.S. was also killed in this building collapse. The wrongful death case for E.S. was settled for $5,000,000.00. His estate was represented by Peter Flowers and Michael Lenert of Meyers & Flowers.