Summary Judgment Dismissal in a $48 Million Fire Case

A. Grant Lingg and Scott Samuelson recently obtained summary judgment dismissal of all claims brought against the firm’s client, a fruit packing company that operated a warehouse in Wenatchee, Washington. The company was sued by an insurer for a neighboring warehouse that sustained $48 Million in damages during the “Sleepy Hollow” fire in 2015. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant negligently stored dangerous, combustible materials in its yard.  The plaintiff’s expert testified that the client’s storage practices “created conditions that amounted to a perfect catastrophe waiting to happen,” and that when the materials ignited an “uncontrollable” fire spread to the plaintiff’s warehouse. On summary judgment, Mr. Lingg and Mr. Samuelson argued that the client had no duty to protect the neighboring warehouses from a fire that originated miles away, and that plaintiff’s proof of proximate causation was lacking. The trial court granted defendant’s motion, dismissing the suit on the grounds that the plaintiff had failed to submit admissible evidence that the defendant’s storage practices caused the fire to spread to the neighboring warehouse.