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Woman awarded $100K for house fire

Plumber allegedly caused fire in home undergoing renovation

Kelly Wiese//October 18, 2009

Woman awarded $100K for house fire

Plumber allegedly caused fire in home undergoing renovation

Kelly Wiese//October 18, 2009

A woman who sued her plumber after her house caught fire amid a bathroom construction project won $100,000 after a bench trial in St. Louis.

Addie Carter sued Timothy Booker along with Edgar Austin, through his company Austin Plumbing, in 2005. 

Carter had hired Booker to renovate an upstairs bathroom and put a bathroom in the first floor of her city home. Booker started work on the job in fall 2001 but had to stop after a city inspector said the project lacked a required permit.

Booker called a friend of his, who worked for Austin Plumbing. Austin called the city and acquired the appropriate permit. However, Austin canceled the permit a day after receiving it when he learned his employee couldn’t do the job.

Meanwhile, Carter was told a permit had been approved, and Booker returned to finish the work in May 2002.

Booker worked one evening on the new bathroom’s pipes with a welding torch, according to the court file. Carter and her sister both thought they smelled smoke and searched the house with Booker but found no fire, according to the judgment. The plumber told them the smell came from his work with the torch and would dissipate eventually.

After Booker quit his work for the night, Carter left the house. A short time later, a relative called to say her house was on fire. The fire department report found the fire was caused by plumbing work, and a firefighter found drops of solder near the bathroom pipes.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Philip Heagney granted Austin’s motion for summary judgment, finding that he canceled the permit shortly after it was issued and he had no connection to Booker.

But the case wasn’t a total win for Carter either. She had estimated the value of her home at $93,600 and of her personal possessions at $79,000. The judge, however, found those figures were inflated, noting the house was undergoing extensive renovation, was in a depressed housing market and in an area with a high crime rate. The judge found the house was worth no more than $60,000 and the belongings’ value was $40,000.

Carter’s attorney was Stephen Banton of Quinn & Banton in Manchester. He didn’t return calls seeking comment. Booker had an attorney earlier in the case but represented himself by the time of trial.


  • $100,000 bench verdict
  • Negligence/breach of contract
  • Court: St. Louis Circuit Court
  • Case Number/Date: 22052-11782/Sept. 8, 2009
  • Judge: Philip Heagney
  • Special Damages: $60,000 for home, $40,000 for possessions
  • Caption: Addie B. Carter v. Edgar L. Austin d/b/a Austin Plumbing and Timothy R. Booker
  • Plaintiff’s Attorney: Stephen Banton, Quinn & Banton, Manchester
  • Defendants’ Attorneys: Brandon Copeland, Brown & James, for Austin, St. Louis; Booker was pro se

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