2008 – Russell Maddox v. Penny Hardy and Korene Lorenz

Russell Maddox v. Penny Hardy and Korene Lorenz, 187 P.3d 486 (July
11,2008)

This appeal involves a controversy surrounding a large fire started by
Korene Lorenz and others for the purpose of clearing rubbish. Russell
Maddox had a home and dog boarding business next door. The fire was to
burn rubbish from Lorenz’s property and the pile set ablaze likely
contained, among other things a Quonset hut, a trailer, a storage shed, a
school bus, old cars, furniture and wood. Although the parties disputed the
size and ferocity of the fire, there was general agreement that it was large.
There was another fire the following day. Following the fires, the Maddox
property was covered with ash. He contacted the ADEC who told him to
have samples of the ash tested. The tests revealed elevated levels of lead.
As a result the ADEC, Health and Social Services, and federal EPA became
involved.

Maddox filed suit against Lorenz, Wilbur “J.R.” Thomas, and Ethel
“Penny” Hardy. Thomas had been heavily involved in the clearing and
burning. Hardy was sued as record owner of the property, although she had
given an unrecorded bill of sale for the property to Lorenz prior to the fire
and executed and recorded a quitclaim deed to the property following the
fire. The court holds that for the purposes of determining liability, the bill
of sale was effective to transfer title from Hardy to Lorenz, eliminating
Hardy’s potential pollution liability as owner. Since Maddox was not a
purchaser, he was not in the class intended to be protected by the recording
statute.

The results of the jury trial were affirmed with Maddox being awarded
$21,000 for lost earnings, $72,000 for lost property value, $2,000 for
mitigation expenses, and punitive damages against Lorenz and Thomas in
the amounts of $500 and $50,000, respectively. However, the Supreme
Court reversed the trial courts dismissal of Lorenz’s claims for defamation,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery, and nuisance based
primarily on interactions between the parties following the fire. It found
that Lorenz’s pro se amendment to her counterclaims was a sufficient
opposition to Maddox’s motion to dismiss. The case was remanded for
further proceedings on Lorenz’s counterclaims.

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