BOE to approve $25 million Little Valley Fire settlement
The Board of Examiners meets on Thursday to approve a $25 million settlement with the victims of the Little Valley Fire.
The fire started as a controlled burn on the west side of Washoe Valley in October 2016. The controlled burn was completed October 11 but erupted in the wee hours of October 14 and, driven by winds gusting to 80 mph, roared down the valley and consumed 23 homes along Franktown Road.
An 81-page report blamed negligence by the state, resulting in millions of dollars in damages. Altogether, 105 plaintiffs sued demanding a total of $325 million in compensation.
Attorney General Aaron Ford advised the board in a memorandum after extensive negotiations, all but one of the plaintiffs signed off on the settlement.
“The settlement includes all attorney’s fees and costs of litigation and resolves this matter except for the claims of one party,” the memo states.
The state’s Excess Insurance policies will cover $15 million of the total. Of the remaining $10 million, $7 million will come from the Statutory Contingency Fund and $3 million from the Tort Fund.
Ford recommended the state accept the deal in large part because of the victims’ argument the fire was, in effect, inverse condemnation and a taking of their property. He wrote if that argument was upheld by a jury, the damages wouldn’t be subject to the state’s $100,000 cap on tort damages. That means the state would be liable for just compensation, compound interest and attorneys fees that would dramatically exceed the $25 million.
Once the settlement is approved, $18 million of the total will be available to the individual plaintiffs. Most of the remaining $7 million will be payable through the Berger Kahn law firm in Irvine, Calif., to the victims’ insurance companies.