CHICAGO — Family members are suing the owner and management company of a Rogers Park apartment building after three women died there last week — their deaths allegedly due to excess heat.
Two lawsuits have been filed claiming the apartment company and owner are responsible for the deaths of the three women — Janice Reed, Dolores McNeely and Gwendolyn Osborne.
A vigil was held over the weekend for the women who were found unresponsive in their homes at the James Sneider Apartments, located at 7450 N. Rogers Ave., on May 14. The medical examiner has not released their cause of death but the women allegedly died due to excess heat.
One of the lawsuits was filed by the family of 67-year-old Reed. The suit claims that management was continuing to run the heating system despite temperatures reaching the 80s outside.
The combination of abnormal warmth and heating in the building caused Reed’s apartment to reach 102 degrees.
The lawsuit also states that residents and an alderman complained about the heat and requested the air conditioning be turned on. However, managers allegedly cited an ordinance claiming they believed they could not turn on the air conditioning until June 1.
Maria Hadden, the 49th Ward Alderwoman, said there is no requirement to keep air conditioning off until June 1.
“Our ordinance is very clear and says you have to provide temperatures of 68 (degrees) through June 1 and they do address heating and no where says they have to have the heat on until June 1,” Hadden said.
A second lawsuit has also been filed by the family of 72-year-old Osbourne with similar claims.
Residents said they complained about the heat for days prior to the deaths.
“Unless you’ve ever lived in an oven, you will never understand what we went through,” Lornas Barnes, an apartment resident, said. “You will never understand.”
Barnes has lived in the building for seven years.
“I have complained since Tuesday when the temperature escalated beyond 90 degrees,” Barnes said. “It took five people dying to get this response.”
Spokespeople for the building management company say they’re conducting their own internal investigation on how this happened.
“Hispanic Housing Development Corporation has long been devoted to providing affordable homes and services that allow seniors to remain independent,” representatives said in a statement. “The safety and security of all our residents have been and have always been our highest priority.”