Colorado Legislators Unanimously Approve Senate Bill Backed by Burg Simpson to Award $18.2 Million to Victims of The Lower North Fork Wildfire

Colorado Legislators Unanimously Approve Senate Bill Backed by Burg Simpson to Award $18.2 Million to Victims of The Lower North Fork Wildfire

By Burg Simpson
May 8, 2014
3 min read

As one of their last and most dramatic acts of the 2014 legislative session, Colorado State Senators and Representatives voted unanimously in a bipartisan manner to approve Senate Bill 14-223 to pay nearly $18.2 million to compensate victims who lost homes and loved ones in the Lower North Fork Wildfire.

Burg Simpson is proud to represent many of the Lower North Fork homeowners, not only to obtain their awards and judgments, but to ensure they are fairly compensated for those awards and judgments through the successful passage of Senate Bill 14-223.

“This is what you go to law school for,” said Thomas W. Henderson, Burg Simpson shareholder and trial lawyer who was integral in leading the fight to recover for these victims and in ensuring passage of the bill, “to take a case for the right reasons, to fight for regular, everyday people who suffer tragedy through no fault of their own, and to ensure that even against long odds, they are treated fairly. I am proud that we fought, as we do every day, to make sure the legal system works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

The 4,100 acre wildfire happened on March 26, 2012, when a controlled burn, lit and managed by the Colorado State Forest Service on Denver Water property, jumped the lines. When, as forecast, very high winds kicked up (up to 80 miles per hour gusts), state employees failed to monitor the burn as they were required to do.

Once the wildfire jumped the lines, it took three lives, destroyed 23 homes, and damaged numerous other homes and structures. At the time, regardless of the State’s fault in causing this tragedy, potential homeowner recoveries were capped at $600,000 total to pay for all losses suffered by all of the homeowners. Yesterday’s vote to overcome that cap and instead to do what was right and just was an honorable and commendable act by the state. It marks the culmination of a long, hard, and often frustrating fight to ensure fair compensation to the victims for losses they suffered through no fault of their own.

“It has been a difficult two years for our clients,” said Henderson, “but we never wavered or backed down from fighting for a just outcome. Of course, no amount of money can ever adequately compensate our clients, including the Appel and Lucas families, who lost loved ones in the wildfire. But yesterday’s vote is a step towards making things right, and towards providing our clients with some closure and some ability to begin to move forward. Today, the state of Colorado has met its responsibility to fairly compensate the victims of the Lower North Fork Wildfire, so they can now, finally begin to try to rebuild their lives.”

Mr. Henderson continued, “I extend my sincere appreciation to state legislators, on both sides of the aisle, who gave this bill the bipartisan support it needed to pass. I also thank the distinguished, independent panel of retired judges with the Judicial Arbiter Group, for their diligence and hard work in assessing the total amount of damages incurred by these victims, and for doing so free-of-charge to either the state or to our clients.”
The bill now goes to Colorado Governor Hickenlooper for his signature, with the first payments to these victims expected in the coming weeks.

With offices in Denver, Steamboat Springs, Cincinnati, Cody, and Phoenix, Burg Simpson is a firm of award winning trial lawyers practicing in the areas of personal injury, medical malpractice, product liability, mass tort, class actions, insurance bad faith, employment law, construction defect litigation, and commercial litigation.


View the official Press Release

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