In $36,000,000 fire case Jury Awards Zero Damages

Joe Roper and John Brigg represented a corporation who provided foam insulation services to a cave warehousing operation when a fire broke out allegedly causing $36,000,000 in damages to the warehousing operation.    An employee of Joe’s client parked the company truck inside a two million square foot limestone cave complex in the Kansas City area.  Leftover foam inside the back of the truck ignited, causing a fire inside the truck.  The employee returned to the truck after being notified by the cave owner of smoke emanating from the vents.  He opened the back door of the truck, and the fire exploded, involving the entire truck.  Ultimately the smoke from the fire spread throughout 200,000 square feet of the cave and required several fire companies and the positioning of fan boats at the entrances/exits to extinguish the fire and clear the smoke.  This operation took approximately 6 hours.

The original claim by the cave owner and his insurer was for damages to the cave complex, including dome outs (roof collapses) caused by heat damage, and smoke damage, totaling approximately $36,000,000.00.  During discovery, it was determined without disclosure by the owner that prior dome out claims were pending against other insurers.  After dropping those claims, the claim was reduced to 11-13 million.  After motion practice, the court further capped the damages plaintiff could recover for diminution in value at $3,000,000.00.

After the close of the evidence, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff on liability but awarded zero damages.  Joe was able to convince the jury that that the owner failed to notify the fire department in a timely manner, and had it done so the damages would have been negligible.