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Durango Railroad Agrees to Settle the 416 Fire Lawsuit

Durango Railroad Agrees to Settle the 416 Fire Lawsuit

March 22, 2022 | 5 min read

The Durango Railroad Agrees to Settle the 416 Fire Lawsuit

Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine announced on Monday that the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has agreed to pay $20 million and modify its operations to settle a lawsuit filed by the federal government in connection with the 416 Fire that occurred in 2018.

Burg Simpson can now also share that the lawsuit we filed on behalf of businesses and homeowners has also been settled. Confidentiality provisions preclude us from discussing the terms of those portions of the global settlement achieved among all interested parties.

The Settlement

Under the terms of the settlement in the federal case, the Railroad will pay $20 million to compensate the United States for damages caused by the fire. Also, according to the agreement, the Railroad will pay $15 million of that amount within 45 days, and the remaining $5 million, plus interest, over a 10-year period. The Railroad also agreed to take other measures to reduce the risk of fire ignition in the future. They have agreed to comply with a plan that places limits on its operations when fire risk is elevated and prohibits operations when fire risk is extreme. Under the new plan, the Railroad will no longer operate coal-burning locomotives during periods of elevated fire risk. In addition, since the lawsuit was filed, the Railroad has started converting its locomotives to oil-based engines.

 The 416 Fire

The 416 Fire started June 1, 2018. It burned for approximately six months and consumed more than 54,000 acres of the San Juan National Forest. At the time, the 416 Fire was the sixth-largest wildfire in Colorado history. It damaged natural habitat, caused erosion, threatened private residences, and required emergency evacuations. In addition to those in the community who suffered from damages, federal agencies that included the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, also incurred significant costs as a result of their efforts to  suppress the fire.

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

The historic train Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was established in 1881 and has been a powerful economic engine for that community for well over 100 years. The Railroad is such a part of the fabric of Durango that its image is included on the City’s official seal.

 The Lawsuits Were Controversial

Burg Simpson shareholder Thomas W. Henderson and co-counsel Bobby Duthie, a partner at Durango-based Duthie Savastano Brungard, represented over three dozen plaintiffs in the state district court case filed against the railroad. Although their clients suffered devastating losses to their homes and businesses because of the fire, these lawsuits were highly controversial in Durango, Silverton, and the surrounding areas. Many residents and business owners were afraid the district court case, coupled with the federal government’s lawsuit, would drive the iconic Railroad out of business. Tom Henderson said, “Many of our clients were threatened, and their businesses were boycotted simply because they sought justice for their devastating losses from the fire.” 

A Successful Resolution

Burg Simpson Shareholder Tom Henderson said, “Burg Simpson and  Duthie Savastano Brungard are proud to have represented these courageous clients who refused to buckle to the pressure they felt from members of their community. Our clients’ dogged determination and iron will, coupled with our help for three and a half years, has resulted in a settlement that was agreed upon by all parties. The settlement enables the Railroad to continue its operation, but in a manner that should minimize the risk of starting future wildfires.” The terms of the district court case are confidential.

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Burg Simpson: “Good Lawyers. Changing Lives. ®”

Burg Simpson was founded in 1976 to champion the rights of the underdog, fight for consumers and epitomize the mission of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, which is to be “Good Lawyers. Changing Lives.”

The attorneys at Burg Simson are admired for their integrity and respected for their dedication to justice. As one of America’s foremost plaintiff trial firms, Burg Simpson has a longstanding and nationwide reputation for fighting relentlessly and successfully for victims of negligence, malfeasance, malpractice, and abuse. Our award-winning lawyers have never hesitated to fight for our client’s rights and consistently face and defeat formidable adversaries, including big insurance companies, corporations, pharma, and banks. Burg Simpson’s award-winning trial attorneys have been consistently recognized for excellence by their peers. They have received awards from organizations that include Best Lawyers in America, Super Lawyers, National Trial Lawyers, and Legal 500.

Burg Simpson’s motto is, “Good Lawyers. Changing Lives.” It’s not just a slogan; it’s who we are. 

About Tom Henderson

Tom Henderson and the Burg Simpson team have over four decades of experience analyzing and litigating these types of insurance policies. Mr. Henderson is the Chair of the Bad-Faith Insurance division of the firm’s Commercial Litigation. He spent the first twenty years of his practice representing the insurance companies, answering their questions about whether or not their policies provided coverage for certain losses. He has spent the past 14+ years of his practice exclusively representing insurance policyholders pursuing claims for insurance benefits owed by the insurance industry. Mr. Henderson and the attorneys at Burg Simpson use Mr. Henderson’s unusual background to their clients’ advantage because they know where the insurance industry weak spots are, where the smoking guns are hidden and how best to structure their clients’ cases to maximize the potential of getting the insurance companies to pay the benefits owed.

If the insurance companies refuse to pay the benefits owed by their policies, then suing them for bad faith is an option to consider. Mr. Henderson and the attorneys at Burg Simpson have successfully sued insurance companies for bad faith, collecting millions of dollars for their clients when their own insurance companies improperly denied, underpaid, or slow paid claims.

Mr. Henderson has been consistently selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the field of Insurance Law. He has also been recognized as a People’s Choice Best Insurance Lawyer and has been selected to Super Lawyers® every year since 2014. Additionally, in 2019 and 2020, he was selected as a Colorado Top Lawyer in insurance by 5280 Magazine.

Tom Henderson and the commercial litigation lawyers at Burg Simpson are available for a free consultation. Call us to discuss how we can help you. 

About Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine

Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine has invested in the talent, technology, and innovation necessary to provide our clients with the exceptional service and value they deserve. As a result, our attorneys have secured more than $2.7 billion in verdicts, settlements, and

judgments in practice areas spanning catastrophic personal injury, mass tort, and class actions regarding gas explosions, dangerous pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices, medical malpractice, complex commercial and business litigation, construction defects, and workers’ compensation. The firm’s success has also included more than 200 recoveries in excess of $1 million.

 Call Burg Simpson for Help Now

If you have a complex legal matter and need a good lawyer, call Burg Simpson for help now. Our firm offers a FREE case evaluation for our potential new clients. Call Burg Simpson Today at 888 895 2080