Lawsuit: Building owner negligence led to death of girl in Back of the Yards fire

CHICAGO (STMW) - The mother of a girl killed in a Back of the Yards neighborhood fire last September is suing the building’s owner, alleging they were responsible for the unsafe environment that ultimately claimed the girl’s life.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court by Denita Joseph, mother of 12-year-old Tatiana Joseph, who was killed in the Sept. 25 fire in the 5000 block of South Carpenter.

In the suit, Joseph alleges that the building’s owner, Sulemanji Tayabali, failed to maintain properly working smoke detectors, which led to the girl’s death.

A group of people — apparently teenagers — were in the attic at the time of the fire, which started about 10 p.m., and four of them jumped from the front window when the fire spread, Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said at the time. Tatiana’s body was found near a closet in the building’s attic.

Smoking materials ignited a large amount of clothes that was being stored in the back of the building, which then rapidly shot up the back steps to the roof, Langford said.

A 16-year-old boy who jumped from the attic’s front window was taken in serious condition to Stroger Hospital. Three others were taken to Holy Cross Hospital in fair-to-serious condition.

An autopsy found Tatiana died of smoke inhalation and burn injuries. Her death was ruled an accident.

Tayabali could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

The five-count lawsuit seeks more than $250,000 in damages.

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