Jury decides train sparked wildfire, did more than $300K in damages

Jury decides train sparked wildfire, didmore than $300K in damages

2 February 2007

published by www.tcpalm.com

USA — A wildfire sparked by a passing train caused $349,503 in damages to a165-tract of Martin County pastureland, a jury decided Thursday.

The verdict sum, which combined repair costs with a reduction in propertyvalue, came after four days of testimony about the extent of damages from anoverheating South Central Florida Express locomotive to property owned by theNorman and Carol Hales trust.

The railroad company has accepted liability for causing the fire, whichconsumed more than 500 acres along six miles of rail track in western St. Lucieand Martin counties in May 2002.

Throughout the civil trial, Gerald Lefebvre, an attorney for the Norman andCarol Hales trust, which owns the land, insisted the fire severely diminishedits potential for future residential development by charring and destroyingtrees.

While Connis Brown, an attorney for the Clewiston-based railroad, insisteddamages to the tract amounted to only about $56,000, Lefebvre claimed the firecaused about $80,000 in out-of-pocket expenses alone for the Hales family.

“This was a big, humungous event that happened out there, and I don’tthink it should be brushed off,” Lefebvre said during his closingstatements.

The jury took about two hours to reach a verdict.

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