By peter h. MILLIKEN
A California landlord has sued the city of Youngstown and an unnamed John Doe defendant, saying the city negligently demolished his house without notifying him in advance after a Jan. 17 fatal fire in that house.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court by Twelve Thrush Avenue Realty Trust of Santa Cruz, Calif., of which Edward F. Goldstein is listed as the trustee.
Goldstein complained that the city demolished his house at 362 Broadview Ave. on June 4, after he had notified a city demolition coordinator in a Jan. 23 email of his intention to restore that rental property for occupancy as soon as the weather permitted restoration work.
Firefighters found a badly burned occupant of the house, Michael Furgas, 53, dead a few feet from his front door, connected to an oxygen tank. They said the blaze may have been caused by his smoking a cigarette near the tank.
The lawsuit, which demands a jury trial and more than $25,000 in damages, says the city violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by depriving the landlord of his property without due process of law. The case is assigned to Judge John M. Durkin.
Anthony Farris, city law director, declined to comment on the suit, but he provided The Vindicator with a May 6 letter from Fire Chief John J. O’Neill Jr. to DeMaine Kitchen, demolition supervisor and assistant to the mayor, which called for an expedited emergency demolition of the house, which O’Neill described as vacant, structurally unsound, impractical to repair, and potentially hazardous to firefighters and adjacent occupied structures.
Farris also offered a 2011 decision in another post-fire Youngstown demolition case, in which a three-judge panel of the 7th District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that no notice is required for an emergency demolition.