Milwaukee landlord ordered to pay $1.35M for fatal fire

MILWAUKEE (AP) – A landlord has been ordered to pay $1.35 million for a fire that killed two people in Milwaukee in 2019, a newspaper reported.

Will Sherard has shown a “reckless disregard” for the condition of his properties, Milwaukee County Judge William Sosnay said in a March 31 decision.

The fire began in wiring behind walls. Clarence Murrell Jr., 60, and Patricia Colston, 53, died.

The lawsuit was filed by Murrell’s adult children, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday.

The newspaper said the financial award was a rare step in a Milwaukee housing case. Sherard hasn’t talked publicly about the lawsuit.

“We are sending a message to all predatory landlords that our community will no longer tolerate unsafe and substandard housing. The lives of people you rent to matter,” said attorney Justin Padway, who represents Murrell’s family.

In 2021, the Journal Sentinel found electrical fires hit Black renters in distressed neighborhoods the hardest. The newspaper’s work was recognized as a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

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