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Initial suspect in arson case recovers $440,000 for burn injuries

A 29-year-old male residing in a transient hotel sustained third degree burns over more than 60 percent of his body as a result of an explosion and fire in the hotel that originated in his unit. The fire consumed almost half of the 65-unit facility and sent several residents to the hospital.

The man spent six weeks at the Loyola University Medical Center Burn Unit, and then spent three months in rehabilitation for his injuries. After his release from rehab, the man was arrested and charged with a Class X felony, aggravated arson, and he spent more than 18 months in Cook County Jail awaiting trial.

Edmund Scanlan handled the criminal case on behalf of the man. The prosecution argued that the man had unhooked the gas line to the stove in his unit in order to cause an explosion in an attempt to commit suicide. Scanlan did not, however, believe the prosecution’s theory of the case, and his personal investigation of the stove revealed that the gas line had not been removed. Accordingly, Scanlan hired an arson expert to review the evidence. The expert concluded that the explosion had been caused by the release of gas through faulty gas heaters in the hotel, which had ignited when the man lit a cigarette on the morning of the explosion. Additionally, Scanlan learned through interviews of several hotel residents that they had smelled gas in their units on several occasions prior to the explosion, and his research also revealed that the hotel’s owner had received several notices for fire safety code violations-which the city had refused to enforce. Armed with this evidence, Scanlan tried the criminal case and obtained a not guilty verdict for his client.

Scanlan then filed a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the hotel, arguing that his negligence in failing to properly maintain the gas heaters caused his client’s injuries. With most of the critical evidence having been established during the criminal case, Scanlan was easily able to obtain a settlement from the hotel owner’s insurance carrier for the full amount of its liability insurance policy-$440,000.

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