Share this article

print logo

Landlord exposed fatally burned girl to dangerous conditions, civil case finds

Eight-year-old Treasure Brighon lingered for two months in a hospital before succumbing to injuries from a fire that ripped through her family's East Side apartment and killed two other people in 2016.

Her family, in a lawsuit, claimed their out-of-town landlord didn't provide working smoke detectors in the home.

The landlord, Sayara A. Uddin, never showed up in court. And he never paid the $5 million judgment that State Supreme Court Justice Mark Grisanti ordered in his absence for Treasure's pain and suffering.

The judgement, which had not previously been reported, came to light this week when the court added $375,000 in interest to the money Uddin owes.

Treasure's mother, Tempest Thomas, in October 2016 sued the owner of their apartment for negligently exposing the family to dangerous conditions. The family said they had complained to the landlord about problems with the electrical system in the Humber Avenue apartment in the weeks before the fire.

"He was an out-of-town slumlord and the home burned down and a girl died in the most tragic fashion in a Cincinnati hospital," said Thomas' attorney, Michael J. Cooper of Cellino & Barnes. "And I sued him and he never showed up for anything."

Now, Uddin owes even more. An updated ruling issued this week added $375,000 in interest to the judgment.

Brooklyn-based Uddin never contested the lawsuit filed on behalf of Treasure's estate.

Thomas’ testimony painted a grim picture of Treasure’s last weeks and the painful treatments she endured as she fought for her life, Cooper said, and the landlord was “blatantly negligent” in her injuries and death.

Efforts by The News to reach Uddin since the fire have failed.

Family mourns girl who perished after East Side fire

Thomas' fiancé, Demetrius Johnson Sr., also died in the fire that broke out around 4 a.m. Feb. 19, 2016, in the apartment at 90 Humber Ave.

Johnson, who was like a father to Treasure, carried her out of the flames before returning to the apartment to search for his 3-year-old son, DeMetrius Jr. Thomas and another one of their sons, DeMeriuse, who was 1, already had gotten out.

Buffalo firefighters located DeMetrius unconscious on a couch and rushed him to an ambulance, but by the time they found Johnson it was too late to save him. Johnson, known as "Meech," was posthumously awarded the Carnegie Medal for his heroism.

A tenant in the upper apartment, Juan Montanez, also was killed.

Treasure Brighon (Photo courtesy her family)

Treasure suffered burns on nearly 90 percent of her body.

Cooper said the last time Treasure could talk was during the ambulance ride from the fire scene to Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, before she was transferred to the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Cinncinati.

"The last words her mother ever heard her speak was in the ambulance going to the initial hospital: 'Mommy, it hurts, it hurts,' " he said.

That's because, to help her breathe, doctors either intubated Treasure or performed a tracheotomy on her, Cooper said.

As a result, the only way she could communicate with her family and hospital staff was with gestures.

"When she was in the hospital room, the only thing she ever wanted to watch was 'Frozen,' " Cooper said.

The burns on Treasure's hands were so bad that doctors eventually amputated all of   her fingers, he said.

She died 65 days after the fire.

Buffalo fire officials announced in April 2016 that an investigation determined the fire was accidental and was sparked by faulty electrical wiring behind the first-floor kitchen gas stove.

Fire marshals interviewed the property owner and determined there were no grounds to charge him.

“There were maintenance complaints but we could not come up with anything to corroborate that,” said Garnell Whitfield Jr., then the fire commissioner.

Thomas told The Buffalo News about problems her family noticed at their apartment, which they had moved into just two weeks before the fire.

Thomas said many electrical sockets didn’t work and that anytime they would use the dishwasher, the fuses would blow and power would go out to their refrigerator. Also, a power line fell next to the house.

Whitfield said there were some smoke alarms in the residence but because of the extensive damage, investigators could not determine if they were in operation at the time of the fire.

Cooper said Thomas and family members noticed prior to the fire that the smoke alarms did not work, and they reported this to Uddin. They also said they did not hear any alarms going off during the fire, according to the attorney.

"They had recently moved in there," Cooper said. "They had complained to him about the electrical, and the lack of fire detectors, and he went in and tried to do the work himself. And the house burned down the next day."

The attorney said Thomas has struggled in the years since the fire and the deaths of her daughter and her fiancé.

Cooper said he has hired a New York City-based attorney to help him collect whatever they can from Uddin.

An earlier search performed by Cellino & Barnes found Uddin's only listed asset was the Humber Avenue building, Cooper said. Uddin may own other properties that are hidden under different names, he said.

"I just don't know," Cooper said.

There are no comments - be the first to comment