Defendants, insurance company settle lawsuit over Aspen ﬁre
ASPEN – A lawsuit over a fire that gutted an Aspen apartment building has been settled.
Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols, on April 17, signed off on a dismissal of the case, which had been scheduled for trial in July.
“The parties were able to reach an amicable settlement agreement in this case,” wrote attorneys for the plaintiff and defendants in a joint stipulation for dismissal of the suit.
The settlement comes after State Farm Fire and Casualty sued Brian Mooney, Mitchell Rubin and Mark Janian in May 2010, alleging that the trio ignited the fire by “improperly disposing of a lit cigarette” in a unit at the Castle Ridge Apartments on June 11, 2008. The suit doesn’t say which man disposed of the cigarette.
State Farm dismissed Rubin from the suit in March 2011, noting that he “has concealed himself from this jurisdiction,” according to a court filing.
And in December, Mooney’s law firm, Atkinson Boyle LLC, of Littleton, filed a brief proposing to pay $8,000 to settle the dispute.
Terms of the settlement agreement are not reflected in court documents, and attorneys for both sides did not respond to telephone messages this week. But the joint stipulation notes that the “plaintiff has received the agreed-to amount from Defendants as settlement in full.”
Mooney and Janian’s attorneys previously had argued that the potting soil in which the cigarette was left was hazardous and flammable. The soil’s dangerous contents were unknown to Mooney and Janian, who were “without proper or adequate warning concerning its flammable nature,” attorney William Boyle wrote in a brief filed Dec. 12 in Pitkin County District Court.
The defense additionally contended the soil was placed on the balcony of the apartment unit by someone other than Janian and Mooney. The manufacturer of the soil, whose identity is unknown, might also have been liable for the fire “by providing an unusually dangerous and defective product and failing to provide adequate warnings concerning the product’s flammability,” Boyle argued.
The fire destroyed the 10-unit apartment building, which housed local workers and was located on Doolittle Drive, near Aspen Valley Hospital. Seventeen residents were displaced because of the blaze, and one cat died of asphyxiation. No one was injured.
The Aspen fire marshal determined that the blaze originated on the balcony of Unit 107 after a cigarette was left in potting soil. The cigarette apparently smoldered and sparked a fast-moving fire. The unit’s occupants weren’t home when the fire broke out at approximately 11:30 p.m.
The building – No. 100B – was replaced in 2009 and has 10 units.
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