An Indiana insurance company has to pay $231,000 to settle claims from a gigantic mulch fire that smoldered in Park City for a month in 2009, a state appellate court ruled Friday.
The Kansas Court of Appeals rejected an appeal from the Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Co., which claimed Evergreen Recycle was at fault for the fire because it built the mulch pile way too big, creating conditions in which it would spontaneously combust from internally generated heat.
Lumbermens also argued that Evergreen failed to inform the insurance company of the fire in a timely manner, preventing it from effectively investigating the accident.
Workers at Evergreen first noticed wisps of smoke coming from the mulch pile on Feb. 12, 2009, the court record said. By then, the fire had burned tunnels into the depths of the mammoth pile of shredded wood.
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Firefighters and Evergreen’s workers spent the next month tearing down the pile and spreading it into windrows so it could be put out a bit at a time.
After a 13-day trial in 2013, a jury awarded Evergreen $235,000 in damages: $180,000 for the ruined mulch, $50,000 for debris removal and $5,000 for emergency expenses.
Lumbermens appealed, contending that the size of the mulch pile exceeded what it had agreed to insure and was virtually guaranteed to catch fire.
The fire code limits commercial mulch piles to 25 feet deep, 250 feet long and 150 feet wide.
Evergreen’s pile was more than twice that size – 60 feet deep, 450 feet long and 300 feet wide, the court record said.
By the time the fire was put out, the mulch was ruined by being charred, watered and mixed with dirt.
Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.