Stutman Law Recovers $300,000 On “Undetermined Fire” By Ruling Out All Causes Except Defendant’s Negligence

Stutman Law recovered $300,000.00 from an HVAC contractor for its clients in an undetermined fire which occurred on Kelleys Island, Ohio.The fire was exacerbated by an attic full of cellulose insulation and a delayed response by the all volunteer fire department. In fact, the damage caused by the fire was so significant that a number of fire investigators, including the plaintiff’s original expert and the Ohio State Fire Marshal, were compelled to classify the fire as undetermined. Stutman Law was undeterred by the early negative evaluations of the fire investigators. By interviewing a number of eye witnesses to the fire, and aggressively following up on every lead, Stutman Law was able to establish that the fire originated in a limited attic space of the building and that the defendant HVAC contractor was the only person who worked in the area of origin on the day of the fire. In doing so, the defendant utilized a trouble light in the attic in order to see his work. Although the HVAC contractor initially reported only the trouble light, Stutman Law’s investigation also established that he utilized a plumber’s torch in the attic before the fire. During the course of the litigation, Stutman Law attorneys systematically eliminated every potential ignition source within the building with exception of the trouble light which was never recovered and the torch used by the defendant. During his deposition, the defendant was forced to admit that he was completely unaware of federal law and industry standards applicable to hot work and acknowledged that it was possible that the trouble light could have fallen from its perch and ignited the cellulose insulation in the attic. The HVAC contractor also admitted that he could have eliminated any danger associated with the trouble light by simply unplugging it. Stutman Law argued throughout the case that the defendant’s negligence was akin to playing with matches in an barn filled with hay and the fire was a foreseeable and predictable result of that negligence. Ultimately, Stutman Law was able to negotiate the global settlement weeks before trial.

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