Wrongful death suit filed against JMHA

STEUBENVILLE — The estates of a woman and young child killed in an April 2015 fire at a rental house have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court against the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority and four of its employees.

The fire at 1331 Wellesley Ave. on April 27, 2015, took the lives of Mae E. Richmond, 70, and Te’On Dillard, 2.

According to the lawsuit, Richmond had a lease for the house with JMHA. At the time of the fire, five people were inside the house, including Richmond’s grandson, Tony Dillard and his three children. Dillard and his two surviving children also are plaintiffs.

According to a police report at the time, an officer was called to the house and he saw a man on the porch, looking through the front door. The officer said the man appeared to be ready to pass out from the heat and flames. The office then pulled the man off the porch.

That officer and another patrolman pleaded with the two kids and a woman on the porch roof to jump about 15 feet to safety. One officer caught one of the kids and the other broke the fall of the other child. The porch roof collapsed a couple minutes later and the woman on the roof fell into the fire.

The lawsuit claims JMHA and its employees knew from inspections of the house that it had several defects, including exposed electrical wires and inoperable smoke detectors.

“Defendants were informed by the inspection company that these conditions were ‘life threatening.’ In fact, the house had long-standing electrical problems of which the defendants knew. Defendants chose not to fix or otherwise remedy these physical defects. In fact, defendants knew from the inspection company reports that there were over 100 ‘life threatening” conditions at JMHA’s public housing unit,” the lawsuit read.

Debbie Bailey, JMHA executive director, said she hasn’t seen the lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday, and didn’t have a comment.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $25,000.

(Law can be contacted at mlaw@heraldstaronline.com.)