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ARTICLE ID 42208

$________ - Cleaning personnel allegedly failed to extinguish cigarette that ignited plaintiff''s building and destroyed inventory - Loss of business inventory, personal property and lost profits.

Henrico County, Virginia

The plaintiff is the owner of a large commercial shoe store, which was destroyed by a fire that originated within the store. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant, a cleaning service, had caused the fire by negligently disposing of cigarette smoking materials. The defendant disputed that its employees were responsible for the fire’s origination.

On February 7, ________ the plaintiff’s store located in Richmond, Virginia sustained severe fire damage and loss. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant cleaning service had caused the fire by negligently disposing of cigarette smoking materials. In support of its position, Plaintiff presented evidence, which established that the defendant’s employees were the only people in and about the building immediately before and during the fire. The plaintiff also established that one of the defendant’s employees regularly smoked cigarettes and was the last person present in the area where the fire originated. The plaintiff also established that a cardboard box had been at the fire’s point of origin, smoking materials were the only sources of fire ignition in this area, and careless smoking was the most probable cause of this fire.

The plaintiff sought damages from the defendant to recover damages for loss of inventory, profits, business personal property.

The defendant argued that its employees were not responsible for the fire and that the fire may have been caused by an unknown arsonist. In support of this position, the defendant argued that physical evidence of an accelerant was found at the fire scene and the local fire officials had not determined the cause of this fire. The defendant also utilized expert testimony to argue that this fire could have been caused by faulty building wiring.

The plaintiff rebutted the defendant’s arson contentions by retaining an expert in the field of arson investigations and chemical analysis. The plaintiff’s expert established that the physical evidence at the fire scene did not establish the use of an accelerant and was inconsistent with arson. The plaintiff’s expert also successfully impeached defendant’s expert on issues pertaining to faulty building wiring and presented substantive evidence, which established that building wiring could not have caused this fire.

The trial lasted four days and the jury deliberated for approximately four and a half hours before rendering a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant. The jury awarded the plaintiff the sum of $________ for the damages caused by the fire. The defendant has sought an appeal, which is currently pending before the Virginia Supreme Court.

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