Can we seek punitive damages froma property maintenance company for negligence regarding an improper furnace repair?

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Can we seek punitive damages froma property maintenance company for negligence regarding an improper furnace repair?

Our apartment has an individual electric furnace, which went out twice in 1 week. The second time, the maintenance worker repaired it, and not even 2 hours later the furnace caught fire. The fire was put out quickly, but the contents of the apartment suffered severe smoke and water damage. We have renters insurance which will cover our property damage, but not the time we’ve spent dealing with the aftermath. The fire inspector ruled that the fire started in the furnace area and was caused by an improper repair.

Asked on February 23, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You have a significant problem in trying to claim for punitive damages. Punitive damages are only available in cases of extremely reprhensible behavior--basically, behavior that shocks the conscience. Deliberately selling dangerous food; assault; egrigious fraud; etc. An improper repair, assuming it was not done maliciously or (possibly) by a completely drunk repair person who had no business working, doesn't begin to rise to that standard.

In terms of other damages, there  is no claim for your time spent dealing with the aftermath of a problem; the law does not provide compensation for that, even if, arguably, it should. People are expected to invest their own time in dealing with situations like this, and there is no compensation for  it.


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