According to an article on United Press International’s website, Estate owner Tarek M. al-Shawaf and caretakers James and Donna Nowlin have been named as defendants in a $25 million federal lawsuit filed yesterday. According to the complaint, they failed to properly close a plastic electrical box on al-Shawaf’s property. Allegedly, sparks flew from the box, falling on dry vegetation and beginning a mountain fire which burned 27,000 acres of land in 2013. The fire spread southwest of Palm Springs, California and forced the evacuation of 5,000 people.
The U.S. Forest Service spent over $15 million fighting the fire over the course of 16 days, and the suit states that the fire caused 9 million dollars in environmental damage. The prosecution alleges that three thousand firefighters, two hundred fifty fire engines, twenty helicopters, and ten airplanes were required to control the fire.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), federal costs of fire suppression exceeded two billion in 2015 alone, making it the most expensive year regarding the suppression of wildfires since the NIFC began recording statistics in 1985. Federal suppression costs generally have hovered around 1.5 billion in the years since 2000, with $809,499,000 (2010) being the lowest recorded figure between 2000 and 2015. Humans, on average, cause 61,913 fires per year, with 7,400 of them occurring in California.
Legal Rights of Those Injured
If a court finds that Mr. al-Shawaf and/or the caretakers breached their duties of ordinary care in leaving the electrical box open, and that this breach resulted in the wildfire, they will be held responsible for damages caused by the wildfire, including burn damages to the buildings and costs incurred by those forced to evacuate. If you or someone you know has suffered damages resulting from a negligently-caused fire, don’t hesitate to contact our office.