American Family Insurance and Colorado State Forest Service by annafoster2012


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									                                      American Family Insurance   2012

 American Family Insurance and
  Colorado State Forest Ser vice

Claim Accuses Colorado State Forest Service Of Negligence In
Prescribed Burn That Ignited Wildfire.

Eight notice of intent to sue claims have been filed against the state
of Colorado in the devastating Lower North Fork Fire, which killed
three people, destroyed or damage 27 homes, and charred 6 square
miles, 7NEWS learned Thursday.

Under Colorado law, a "notice of claim" is a required first step toward
a lawsuit against a government agency.

The claims by a homeowner insurance company and an electrical
utility were filed against Colorado State University, which oversees
the Colorado State Forest Service.

The Forest Service has been the focus of criticism, because it
conducted a prescribed burn in the Jefferson County foothills on
March 22 that erupted four days later into the wildfire when high
winds reignited embers.

Claim notices were also served on Denver Water, on whose property
the controlled burn was conducted under an agreement with the
Forest Service.

An independent review of the prescribed burn found that the Forest
Service violated its own burn plan by failing to have its firefighters
monitor the smoldering field the day before the fire broke out.

American Family Insurance and Colorado State Forest Service |
                                       American Family Insurance   2012

The Intermountain Rural Electric Association is seeking damages of
more than $1.2 million, saying the fire destroyed its electrical
transmission lines and other distribution facilities in the burn area.

The IREA claim says the Forest Service's "negligent and/or willful
and wanton planning, initiation, conduct, oversight and attempted
termination of the prescribed burn resulted in reignition of the burn
beyond its containment boundaries."

"That reignition resulted in a catastrophic wildfire," the claim said.

IREA names nine Forest Service employees, from State Forester Jeff
Jahnke down to firefighters directly involved in the prescribed burn.

The other seven claims were filed by American Family Insurance,
seeking to recover money paid to Conifer-area clients whose homes
or personal property were damaged or destroyed by the wildfire.

"American Family and other insurance companies use the process of
subrogation to recover claim loss payments from the person or entity
whose actions or negligence contributed to the incident," American
Family Insurance spokesman Steve Witmer said in a statement to
7NEWS. Subrogation is a legal referring to an insurance firm taking
legal action in place of its client.

"This benefits our customers in two ways -- our customers can be
compensated for the sums they previously paid for deductibles, and
it helps keep insurance affordable by reducing the costs that are
used to calculate insurance rates," Witmer said.

7NEWS checked the addresses for the claims filed by American
Family Insurance. Only one of the seven involves a home that was

American Family Insurance and Colorado State Forest Service |
                                      American Family Insurance   2012

Three of the claims from American Family Insurance involve a
residence which was reimbursed for losing power for four days and
having freezers at the home turned off and thawed.

State Liable For No More Than $600,000

The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act limits the state's legal
liability to $150,000 for an individual victim.

In the case of multiple victims, the state's total liability is $600,000 an
incident. The money is divided among all the victims, legal experts

The insurance company cited three family members in one claim and
two family members in another claim. All the other insurance claims
named one victim.

Victims Have 6 Months To File "Notice Of Claim"

In order to be eligible for any monies that may be paid by the state,
victims of the Lower North Fork fire must filed a claim with the state
within 180 days of their loss. That puts the timeline in late
September. It doesn't matter if the claim is filed first or last, every
claim would have an equal shot at receiving a share.

"Just because they've made the first claims, they don't get the
money," said University of Denver law professor Tom Russell.
"Interestingly, the insurance companies seem to be filing claims here
before any trial lawyer in the state is filing a claim."

Russell is well-versed in Governmental Immunity and 7NEWS asked
him if it's possible for the insurance company and IREA to get
compensation before anyone who lost loved ones or property.

"If you file a notice of claim, you're not guaranteed that you'll get
anything," said Russell. "IREA and the insurance companies are

American Family Insurance and Colorado State Forest Service |
                                      American Family Insurance   2012

trying to reach into that pot of money before anyone else in the state
has tried to reach into that pot of money."

Residents Still Looking For Answers

At a Wednesday night meeting in Conifer where various officials
briefed residents, legal action was on the minds of some angry,
frustrated residents.

Coe Meyer lost everything in the fire.

"I'm really happy that the state acquired all this knowledge from this
fire, but we, me, and the people in this room paid the tuition and will
for the next 25 years for some of us," Meyer told officials.

"I'm not hearing the word, 'liability,' and that's what everybody here
has on their mind," Meyer stressed.

Also on Wednesday, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said its
investigation into the cause and origin of the Lower North Fork Fire
had determined that the Forest Service followed or exceeded the
parameters set by its controlled burn plan, and that no criminal
violation occurred.

Yet, Sheriff Ted Mink told 7NEWS he understands fire victims' cries
for accountability.

"Well, I can understand -- and believe me I can understand – that
when you lose a loved one and certainly when you lose everything
that you probably value or have ever owned, you want something or
somebody …to pay for that," Mink said. "I understand that."

"We're not saying that somebody should not be held accountable,"
Mink said. "All we're saying is there's no criminality that we have
come up with."

American Family Insurance and Colorado State Forest Service |
                                      American Family Insurance   2012

The legal claims indicate that accountability could be decided in civil


American Family Insurance and Colorado State Forest Service |

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