A Colorado homeowner who was charged and convicted of arson has filed a notice of intent to sue the fire departments that fought the fire he set.
Termed the Reservoir Road fire, the fire in Loveland, Colorado began September 12, 2010 when Joel Ledermann was burning brush on his property without a permit. The fire burned 750 acres and destroyed two homes.
According to District Attorney Larry Abrahamson “a person commits fourth degree arson if they recklessly start a fire which places other people or property in danger.”
We do not normally associate a “reckless” state of mind with the crime of arson. More commonly, arson requires “intent”. However in Colorado as in many other states there are degrees of arson, particularly when it comes to wildland fires, that recklessness or even gross negligence is enough.
Recklessness is commonly defined as consciously disregarding and known and substantial risk of harm. Abrahamson further described it under Colorado law: “reckless behavior is when a person actually perceives, or should perceive, the result that occurs and disregards it.” Gross negligence is defined as a gross deviation from the reasonably prudent person standard.
Ledermann’s legal theory against the fire departments is unclear. He pled guilty last December, sparing himself any risk of jail time. He has been sued for negligence by homeowners whose property was damaged. According to his defense attorney in that case, Ledermann needed to file the notice of claim or risk losing the ability to ever sue the fire departments due to a time limitation.
Certainly a case we will be watching.