SCRANTON – A pair of landlords are suing the owner of an Old Forge restaurant located directly beneath their rental property and two co-defendants, for the destruction of their apartment space due to a fire that occurred during a Super Bowl Sunday party in February 2015.

Alexis M. Goreschak of Scranton and David Leader of Dalton filed suit on Jan. 27 in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, versus Robert Ferri of Old Forge, Michael W. Marhelski of Olyphant and Shaun M. Lussi of Pittston.

According to the lawsuit, defendant Ferri was the listed owner of the property in question, located at 65 Connell Street in Old Forge; a three-story building with a restaurant and bar located on the ground floor, while the top two floors were apartment space rented by the plaintiffs. The property’s ground floor was formerly a popular restaurant location named “Mac’s Café."

But at all times relevant to the instant case, the restaurant and/or bar was not open for business. The fire destroyed the building.

On Feb. 1, 2015, the plaintiffs say the defendants were hosting a Super Bowl Sunday party in the bar and set up a turkey fryer indoors, in the restaurant’s kitchen. The kitchen’s walls were metal-lined and the floor was concrete, per the lawsuit.

“The defendants dropped a frozen turkey into the fryer that was set up in the middle of the room, believing that this open space would be sufficient in preventing a fire, and hence acknowledging the hazard. Upon dropping the frozen turkey into the fryer, the fryer erupted in flames in seconds, according to the defendant’s accounts,” the complaint read.

“Defendant [Robert] Ferri threw water on the fire, spreading the flames further. At this point, the defendants realized that the fire had grown too large to control, and left the bar to evacuate the plaintiffs. The defendants notified the fire department of the fire. Old Forge police were dispatched to the scene on Feb. 1, 2015 at 5:18 p.m. The apartment building was torn down early the next morning on Feb. 2, 2015. Plaintiffs lost an estimated $69,620.00 in possessions destroyed with the building. The defendants’ actions endangered themselves and the plaintiffs,” the complaint continued.

The plaintiffs say they incurred $69,320.00 in damages consisting of personal effects, appliances, furnishings, cash kept in the apartment, tools, etc., plus an additional $300 in irreplaceable family heirlooms, art, collectibles, instruments, family photos, etc.

The plaintiffs believe the defendants should have known the danger of using the fryer incorrectly and not done so, failed to warn the plaintiffs of this danger and failed to use due care under the circumstances, among a number of other stated allegations.

For individual counts of negligence against all three defendants, the plaintiffs are seeking damages of $69,620.00, plus interest, costs and delay damages.

The plaintiffs are represented by Gerald J. Hanchulak of The Hanchulak Law Offices, of Clarks Summit.

Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas case 2017-CV-794

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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