'Lawsuits imminent' in wake of Little Valley Fire

    Washoe County, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, and Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District will host community meeting on Monday, Oct. 24 to talk to residents directly affected by the Little Valley Fire.

    At least one Reno attorney is saying "lawsuits are imminent" in the aftermath of the Little Valley Washoe Fire.

    This week, the cause of that fire was determined to be an escaped prescribed burn by the Nevada Division of Forestry. Twenty-three homes and 17 outbuildings were destroyed.

    Attorneys David Houston and Ardea Canepa-Rotoli are talking with homeowners who lost everything. They expect to face two significant legal hurdles.

    Canepa-Rotoli said, "I can guarantee the State will seek immunity." They both also know there is a $100,000 cap on damages in civil suits against the state.

    Both are already working to overcome these two challenges. Canepa-Rotoli said, "We're very confident in this case if it goes to litigation, we're going to be able to surpass the immunity issues."

    Houston said, "It's ridiculous to think $100,000 would even be in the realm of reality as far as attempting to compensate these folks for their loss." Houston added, "Depending on theories of litigation, there are ways we may be able to defeat that cap, certainly that is our goal. That is no secret."

    Canepa-Rotoli echoed that sentiment. She said, "It is going to be a lot of hard work to find potential ways to overcome that cap because obviously, $100,000 per claimant doesn't even come close to what these homeowners are going to need to become whole again."

    CLICK HERE for the website of David Houston and CLICK HERE for the website to Ardea Canepa-Rotoli. The two lawyers are still talking with homeowners. Anyone with questions or inquiries should call Houston at 888-907-3384 or Canepa-Rotoli at 775-322-3666.

    Canepa-Rotoli said homeowners may face challenges with their insurance companies, as she notes those companies will seek every exclusion. Also, some homeowners might be under-insured. She points out there are losses not covered. She said, "Not to mention all the family heirlooms and things insurance isn't going to cover. " She added some of the homes lost were long time family ranches that can never be replaced.

    Houston said his investigation into the matter is in its infancy. He said the list of damages will be long. For example, he points out homeowners will be paying taxes on property that is now worth far less than when homes were standing. He asks what happens if one of those homeowners wanted to sell. Houston said, "Quite frankly, restoration of that property, despite best efforts, will take decades."

    For now, it is impossible to put a dollar amount on the damages that could be sought. Canepa-Rotoli said, "I think it is too early to determine potential damage liability."

    Despite all the variables, there is one certainty. If this goes to litigation, and it looks like it is heading that way, it could take years for homeowners to receive compensation for the damages from this fire.

    We did reach out to the Attorney General's Office for an interview. Our request was declined because that Office might end up defending the State against these lawsuits. The attorneys for the homeowners hope the state has liability insurance that is adequate to compensate in these circumstances.

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