Alton tenant alleges asbestos exposure, arson after intoxicated driver hits home

An Alton woman claims she and her children may have been exposed to friable asbestos and then wrongfully accused of arson after an intoxicated man hit their Alton rental property.

Celia Pauli, also known as Pellegrino, individually and as next friend of her minor children Ava Pellegrino and Sebastian Pellegrino, filed the complaint in the Madison County Circuit Court against Randy Beckman, Carol Beckman and Bobby Ray McCane. The suit was filed through attorney John Pawloski of St. Louis.

According to the complaint, Pauli claims the Beckmans assured her that their leased property on State Street in Alton was habitable. The home was struck by a 2005 green Jeep Cherokee at 7:42 a.m. on Sept. 23, 2017, which was driven by an intoxicated McCane. Pauli alleges McCane became intoxicated at Johnson’s Corner on State Street. He was arrested for driving while intoxicated following the crash, the suit states.

Following the collision, debris was filtered into the air. Pauli claims the debris may have contained friable asbestos. She alleges the Beckmans failed to conduct a test to measure the amount of contaminants in the airflow throughout the house and failed to hire a skilled contractor to remove or abate contaminants from the home, including asbestos.

Pauli requested written assurances of proof of testing from the Beckmans to show that the home could be safely inhabited, but she alleges they refused to do so.

The plaintiff claims the property was deemed condemned and uninhabitable. As a result, Pauli alleges she and her children “were not allowed to retrieve their belongings aside from a few things they could carry with them.”

“The Beckmans failed to secure the building at 1905 State, failed to render the premises safe for return to retrieve the Paulis’ possessions safely, and as a consequence, an arsonist set fire to the premises rendering plaintiffs’ possessions worth in excess of $20,000 a total loss,” the suit states.

Pauli alleges the Beckmans accosted her verbally while at church, blaming her for the arson without a legal basis for doing so. She claims the encounter caused her to suffer further emotional damage, the suit states.

Pauli claims the defendants owed her and her children a duty of care to protect them from harmful conditions and a duty to warn them of the alleged dangers. She alleges they failed to take reasonable measures to secure the premises, failed to determine if asbestos was present, failed to correct the property’s condition, failed to use reasonable care when blaming Pauli for arson and negligently caused emotional distress “when confronting plaintiffs at church and by causing disruption and loss of their domicile.”

“Plaintiffs have sustained damages as a proximate result of defendants’ conduct, including injury, loss of property, emotional injury, psychological trauma, economic loss, loss of personal items of great sentimental importance, bodily injury, and the like,” the suit states.

The plaintiffs seek a judgment in their favor in excess of $50,000, plus court costs and attorney’s fees.

This article was first published in Madison Record.

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