Landlords sue father over fire that allegedly occurred during son's party; claim alcohol, drug use were likely involved

By Annie Cosby | Jun 2, 2014

A Cook County couple is suing a man who it rented a Glencoe home to over hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage caused by a fire that supposedly broke out during a party his son hosted while he was out of town.

Steven and Bonnie Katz filed a lawsuit May 20 in the Cook County Circuit Court against Leonard Blackman, his son, and Allstate Insurance Co.

According to the suit, a fire occurred Jan. 26 on the premises the Katzes leased to Leonard Blackman. The plaintiffs claim the fire started during a party Blackman's son, who was under 21 at that time, hosted while his dad was out of town.

The Katzes allege the fire occurred as a result of the tenants' negligence, which more than likely included the improper use or disposal of smoking materials and the use and/or abuse of alcohol and drugs.

The suit points to two visits to the home in 2013, when Bonnie Katz claims she smelled marijuana and found significant amounts of alcohol in the area Blackman's son lived. It further states Blackman's son and his guests were allegedly in possession of and/or using smoking materials, illegal drugs, paraphernalia and alcohol on the date of the fire.

The Katzes accuse Leonard Blackman of negligence, breach of contract and violations of the Illinois Parent Responsibility Law. They accuse of Blackman's son of negligence and violating the Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act.

The suit also alleges Allstate, which issued Blackman a renters insurance policy, breached its contract and refused to make payment on the claim.

The plaintiffs claim they incurred more than $900,000 in damages as a result of the fire, which the suit states includes $800,000 in property damage, $25,000 in damage to personal property contained in the home, $35,000 in lost rent and other payments, $30,000 in lost wages and $50,000 in legal fees.

They seek to recoup those damages from the Blackmans and State Farm, as well as the cost of the suit, punitive damages and those provided under the Parent Responsibility Law and Drug or Alcohol Impaired Minor Responsibility Act.

The Katzes are being represented in the case by attorneys Stuart M. Brody of Sneckenberg, Thompson & Brody LLP and Thomas A. Vickers of Vanek, Vickers & Masini P.C.

Cook County Circuit Court Case No. 2014L005557.

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed in the Cook County Circuit Court. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note, a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt, and it only represents one side of the story.

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