Penndel man sues the maker of his couch for apartment fire; Landlord blames the man's cigarette

By Nicholas Malfitano | Oct 12, 2018


PHILADELPHIA – A Bucks County man is suing the manufacturers of his upholstery, claiming its defective design and lack of fire-retardant barriers led to him suffering burns on one-third of his body in an apartment fire nearly three years ago.

Raymond E. Garrison, III of Penndel filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Nov. 9, 2017 versus Richard Gaittens of Bristol, Diamond Furniture, Inc., Diamond Furniture Warehouse Outlet and Gary Diamond of Philadelphia, United Furniture Industries of Tupelo, Miss., Simmons Canada, Inc. of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and Simmons Upholstery of Canada, of North York, Ontario, Canada.

On Oct. 3, 2011, Garrison purchased various pieces of a Simmons London Walnut Upholstered Leather Furniture from the Diamond defendants, and the suit arises from the serious and permanent personal injuries he suffered in a fire on Nov. 10, 2015, due to the defendants’ alleged failure to utilize available fire safety prevention measures.

“The defendants knew or should have known that the use of fire retardants would reduce upholstered furniture flammability and prevent injury, save lives and reduce property damage…defendants knew or should have known that improved resistance to cigarette ignition has been achieved through the selection of covering fabrics (e.g. thermoplastic fabrics rather than heavy cellulosic fabrics) and filling materials (e.g. polyurethane foam rather than cotton batting),” according to the lawsuit.

Several months prior to Nov. 10, 2015, Garrison moved to Penndel, with Gaittens being his landlord. Though Gaittens was advised work needed to be done to the building’s electrical system, Gaittens is said to have not provided these repairs, nor smoke detectors or a fire escape, the suit claims.

“On or about Nov. 10, 2015, plaintiff, while using the London Walnut leather sofa in a foreseeable and intended manner, awoke to discover the sofa on fire. At this time, plaintiff observed flames coming out of the wall socket near the leather sofa. Plaintiff attempted to put out the fire by throwing water, but he was unsuccessful. As a result of the smoke and fire, plaintiff was unable to exit his apartment through the front door,” the lawsuit says.

“The rear of plaintiff’s apartment off of the kitchen led to an elevated deck, however, there was no fire escape to use. Plaintiff became trapped in his apartment and was overcome by smoke and fire. Fortunately, plaintiff’s next-door neighbor broke through a wall and rescued plaintiff. During plaintiff’s attempts to exit his apartment, he was severely burned over more than 32 percent of his body, and received serious burns to his face, arms, hands, neck and back.”

On Feb. 16, Gaittens filed an answer to the complaint, arguing the sole cause of the fire was Garrison’s own carelessness and misconduct in smoking a cigarette and that there was “no defect in wiring or other safety violation of any kind within the leased premises” and “no requirement nor any reasonable basis to anticipate installation of a fire escape.”

For multiple counts of strict liability, breach of implied warranty and negligence, the plaintiff is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $50,000, plus interest and costs of suit.

The plaintiff is represented by Charles S. Cooper of Cooper & Schall, in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by Bradley D. Remick of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin and William P. Barrett of Snyder Barrett & Wilkinson, all in Philadelphia, plus Paul Brownstein of the Law Offices of Paul Brownstein, of Southampton.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 171100854

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

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Cooper Schall & Levy Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

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