The standard of care required of owners or others in possession of real property, with regard to injuries caused by a fire, is the same as that applying to buildings generally. The Court of Appeals in two landmark cases implemented the standard of “reasonable care under the circumstances” toward all persons on property. Foreseeability is an integral part of any analysis under this standard. The status of the injured party may still impact the issue of what is “reasonable care.” As is required in all negligence cases, sufficient proof must be produced to show that the requisite duty of care was breached. A prima facie case of negligence can be seen in Sanders v. Bass, 235 A.D.2d 255 (1st Dep’t 1997), where a fire was caused in an apartment under renovation by one of several fans that had been left on and unattended over the weekend. Cf., e.g., Stanisz v. Tsimis, 96 A.D.2d 838; Horowitz v. Kevah Konner, 67 A.D.2d 38.
After the breach of duty of care is met, the breach must be shown to be the proximate cause of the damages. In Tower Ins. Co. v. M.B.G., 288 A.D.2d 69 (1st Dep’t 2001), a summary judgment was made for the defendant because, though the police report indicated the fire started in the defendant’s normal smoking area and may have been caused by a cigarette, any inference of the defendant causing the fire was only made to indulge in unwarranted speculation. In McDonald v. Seminole Realty Co., 261 A.D.2d 454 (2d Dep’t 1999), sealer fumes ignited and then exploded when plaintiff applying sealer to floor. However, summary judgment was not made because there were questions as to whether negligence of defendant’s employees was the cause of the fire. In Merino v. Left Nine, 258 A.D.2d 896 (4th Dep’t 1999), the defendant was found liable because there was sufficient proof that a box fan had been left on over the weekend to cool a compressor in the plaintiff’s basement, which caused a fire. To infer that defendant caused the fire because he normally smoked in the area where the fire started is to indulge in unwarranted speculation. See Matter of Burton v. Broadcast Music, 31 A.D.2d 557 aff’d 24 N.Y.2d 1016; Broder v. MacNeil, 232 A.D.2d 163, 166 lv. den. 88 N.Y.2d 816.