Our clients, Tim and Linda, were retired union workers with a small vacation property in the California mountains. They spent a few months each year away from the big city, enjoying their second home and the serenity of nature. The serenity ended rather abruptly, when Tim accidentally started a fire on their property, which spread to the neighboring forest.
Tim and Linda faced a significant claim (over $1 million) from the local fire department for the cost of putting out the fire. The claim just about equaled the value of their primary home and their cash savings. The claim was presented without any significant evidence from the fire department that Tim’s actions amounted to negligence.
After properly positioning their assets, we convinced the fire department that Tim and Linda had no assets that were easily reachable and that the claim should not be pursued. While an ordinary creditor is often not easily swayed by last minute planning, many state and federal agencies are. Government bureaucrats do not receive a commission for successful pursuing a claim, and often drop the case when the going gets tough.
This has saved Tim and Linda significant legal costs that they would have otherwise incurred if the fire department filed a lawsuit to prove negligence. Tim and Linda where our third client in a one-year period facing a claim from a state or a local fire department for negligently starting a fire.
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