Stutman Law Obtains $1.25 Million Settlement on Eve of Trial

A brand new 7,800 square foot custom built residential property in the suburbs of Atlanta was destroyed by fire and collapsed into the basement. When Stutman Law attorneys received the assignment from its insurance company client, the fire investigator retained by the insurance company informed Stutman Law attorneys the property was a total a loss and the cause of the fire was undetermined. Through its aggressive investigation, Stutman Law attorneys learned that on the night of the fire the homeowner had used the wood burning fireplace for the first time. It was further learned the homeowner was awakened by the smell of smoke and observed smoke rolling up from underneath the fireplace, over the hearth extension and back into the fireplace. Armed with these facts, Stutman Law Attorneys retained a renowned fireplace expert and placed the seller and installer of the fireplace on notice of a potential claim and coordinated a dig out of the loss scene with all interested parties. When the subject fireplace was lifted from the floor of the basement, it was learned that the fireplace installer failed to install the required 4.5”metal hearth spacer to protect the combustible wood floor from the heat of the fireplace. During litigation, the fireplace seller and installer defended the claim on the grounds that they complied with the manual by installing a .5” piece of durarock cement over the combustible wood floor thereby making the combustible floor non-combustible and eliminating the need for the manufacturer’s required hearth spacer. The defendants also retained an expert to perform burn testing and alleged the temperatures from the fireplace could not ignite the wood flooring under the durarock. Stutman Law exposed the flaws in defendants burn testing during a deposition. Stutman Law attorneys then retained their own burn testing expert who worked with the homeowner to reconstruct the loss scene the way it existed at the time of the fire. Stutman Law’s burn testing expert demonstrated the fireplace reached temperatures that ignited the wood flooring under the durarock in the controlled laboratory setting. The video of this burn testing was produced to defendants and the expert was deposed. Thereafter, Stutman Law attorneys obtained a $1,250,000.00 settlement for its insurance company client and homeowner on the eve of trial.

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