Case Studies

Spontaneous Combustion

A gentlemen’s club in Seattle, Washington was undergoing major renovations when, on one of the final days of construction, a fire occurred and caused substantial property damage.  The property insurer’s insured was overseeing the construction project.  When the fire started, all construction workers and employees of the insured had left for the day, with the insured’s management team the last to leave prior to the fire.  DBMP built a strong case that staining materials were improperly discarded by a painting/staining subcontractor, and that the spontaneous combustion of these materials was the cause of the fire.  A timeline for the work performed that day, substantiated by stain material purchase receipts obtained in discovery, was an important part in convincing the defendant to resolve the matter.  At mediation, DBMP presented the mediator and defendant’s insurer with a short but clear presentation regarding the the process of spontaneous combustion and how it occurred in this case.

A large single family home under construction in Florida was completely destroyed by fire which resulted in payments by DBMP’s client of $500,000.  The responding police officer noted in his report that he observed an unknown person running from the scene of the fire through the rear of the property.  Successful recovery depended on not only proving the likelihood of spontaneous combustion, but also the ability to rule out arson as the cause of the fire.  DBMP used extensive discovery including depositions of several local authorities, to essentially rule out any potentially viable arson defense.  Discovery also revealed that the staining contractor utilized a “dip trough” within the garage for wood stain products, and failed to properly discard the staining rags and other materials.  Without a viable defense, the staining contractor paid a large percentage of the total damage sustained by the property insurer.