Second lawsuit filed in Edgewater apartment building fire

EDGEWATER -- A second lawsuit was filed Thursday against the owners of an apartment building that burned to the ground last week, while in Trenton a state lawmaker proposed a moratorium on all approvals of multi-family developments until state building codes can be reviewed.

A mother and daughter who lived in the Avalon at Edgewater sued AvalonBay Communities for damages Thursday, asserting they suffered mental anguish and emotional distress in addition to economic loss.

Last Wednesday's blaze was started by workers doing plumbing repairs. About 500 people's apartments were destroyed and about 500 more were displaced.

On Monday, two other former residents sued and are seeking class action status for the lawsuit. The suit filed Thursday doesn't seek the same classification; attorney Michael Epstein, who represents plaintiffs Sarah and Lisette Jacobo, said in an email that he felt a class action was not appropriate "because every victim has independent and different losses."

A spokesman for AvalonBay Communities said the company had no comment on the lawsuits.

Also on Thursday, Assemblyman Scott Rumana, R-Passaic, Bergen, said he would propose a bill that would impose a moratorium on approvals for multi-family housing developments until the state's building code is revised.

There have been no allegations of building code violations at the apartment complex, but fire officials and lawmakers have questioned the use of lightweight wood that many say is more flammable than other types of wood.

"The Edgewater inferno makes it clear that we need new and improved building standards in New Jersey in order to protect residents and first responders," Rumana said. "Until those new standards are in place, a moratorium on new building is urgent. We need to ensure that better construction standards, designed to save lives, are in place before any new multi-family housing is built."
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