Insurance settlement still contested for 2008 wildﬁre
CARBONDALE – Nearly four years after a wildfire threatened several homes along County Road 100 outside Carbondale, a court still is sorting through an insurance settlement.
The Colorado Court of Appeals on Thursday sent a lawsuit back to a Denver trial court to determine if an insurance company for Larry Gerbaz and 100 Road Cattle Co. LLC must pay multiple parties a collective settlement of $500,000.
Gerbaz’s insurer, National Farmers Union Property and Casualty Co., already has paid out $1 million through a farm liability insurance policy, according to the ruling by the appeals court. The $1 million was divvied up among Larry Garfinkel, a fisherman who was burned in the fire; Ranch at Roaring Fork Homeowners Association Inc., which sustained property damage; two real estate development companies that incurred property damage; three individuals who suffered property damage; and an insurance company.
Larry Gerbaz also had a homeowner’s insurance policy for $500,000 on his residence, next to his family’s farm property, where the wildfire allegedly started. Gerbaz’s insurer contended it had a technical exclusion from coverage for the defendant’s losses. The farm property was operated as a “business pursuit” by the Gerbazes, the insurer contended, so it didn’t have to pay out from the homeowner’s policy.
A Denver District Court judge ruled in a summary judgment that the exclusion didn’t apply. National Farmers Union Property and Casualty Co. appealed. The appellate court remanded the issue to the lower court for trial since there was conflicting evidence about the use of the farm property for business.
The $1 million settlement is unaffected.
The fire broke out on a windy April day after Gerbaz burned slash piles of wood on his family’s ranch. The fire threatened about 150 homes along Catherine Store Road. Three sustained minor damage. Scores of residents were evacuated.
Gerbaz claimed that he burned the piles responsibly. He was charged with two counts of fourth-degree arson, but a jury acquitted him. The two lawsuits over the $1 million insurance payment were settled without an admission of fault by Gerbaz.
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