Fire Litigation


With over 50 years of related experience, superior judgment, and outstanding litigation talent, the premier fire litigation practice in Ohio and the Midwest region can be found at Ulmer. We handle a broad range of fire litigation matters including fire subrogation and product liability defense as well as arson and fire insurance coverage matters for insurers, manufacturers, and businesses.

Our fire litigators understand that what differentiates fire litigation from other litigation is the proper determination of origin and cause. That means that our work begins at the scene of the fire. With extensive experience in loss-site investigations, two litigation partners who are Certified Fire and Explosion Investigators and up-to-date on the latest research and trends in origin and cause determination, we regularly provide valuable advice to clients and experts at the critical, early stages of fire scene examination. Our attorneys have close working relationships with local, state, and federal law enforcement and fire service officials, independent origin and cause investigators, and engineers. Hard hats, coveralls, flashlights, evidence bags, and steel-soled boots are kept in attorney offices and vehicles, ready for immediate use at loss-sites.

Our wealth of experience in handling various fire matters extends to the litigation and trial of fire loss cases. Whether defending or examining fire experts, litigating the admissibility of fire experts’ opinions under Daubert challenges, opposing claims because of spoliation of evidence, or presenting evidence to juries regarding fire origin, cause or spread theories, our attorneys have the special knowledge required to successfully handle fire litigation matters. Ulmer attorneys don’t just take effective depositions and write persuasive briefs; they have real and significant courtroom experience in trying large and complex fire cases.

2016 produced a variety of court decisions that emphasized the continuing adoption of NFPA 921 Guide for Fire & Explosion Investigations as the measure by which judges across the country decide the reliability and admissibility of origin and cause opinions of fire investigators in civil and criminal cases. Challenges to experts’...

Ulmer is ranked in 39 categories in the 2017 U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings. Among these, the firm earns U.S. News – Best Lawyers highest rankings in 21 categories. The firm also ranks nationally in 15 categories. Firms included in the 2017 “Best Law Firms” are...

Ulmer & Berne announces that Cleveland-based partner James N. Kline has been elected Secretary of the Ohio Association of Civil Trial Attorneys (OACTA) at its annual meeting. OACTA’s mission is to promote fairness, excellence, and integrity in the civil justice system by providing resources and education to attorneys and others...

“Michael Nathan Ungar | Ulmer & Berne LLP” Cleveland Jewish News January 15, 2015 Perennial Super Lawyer Michael Nathan Ungar considers settlement of a dispute embroiling Case Western University among his most memorable cases of 2014. Read the full article »

Ulmer & Berne LLP has been ranked within the top 10 percent of all law firms by The BTI Consulting Group, one of the nation’s leading legal industry research firms, in their recently published 2015 BTI Litigation Outlook report. The firm was selected as a “Litigation Powerhouse” and is named...

Ulmer & Berne LLP was named 2014 Ohio Firm of the Year by Benchmark Litigation at the second annual Benchmark Litigation US Awards held at the Essex Hotel in New York City on January 29, 2014. The US Benchmark Awards were based on a six-month research period involving extensive interviews...

Representative Experience

Aircraft Fires

  • Defended death and personal injury claims arising from a fire on board an Air Canada airliner en route to Canada from Texas and downed in Northern Kentucky. Defended manufacturer of interior furnishings on airliner, including poly-vinyl wall covering and polyurethane foam cushions from allegations of smoke contribution and flame spread.

Apartment Building Fires

  • Represented owner and manager in multiple suits brought by tenants and subrogated insurance carriers arising from two separate fires that destroyed buildings in the same apartment complex.

Appliances

  • Investigated, prosecuted, and defended claims involving numerous appliances and products including: HID fixtures and lamps, toasters, can openers, dryers, coffee makers, ovens, televisions, computers (including component parts), furnaces, air conditioners, and lawnmowers.

Arson Fires

  • Investigated and handled hundreds of fires allegedly caused by arson.

Automobile Fires

  • Investigated and prosecuted numerous fires arising from defective automobiles, equipment, and/or automotive repairs.

Electrical Fires

  • Represented subrogated insurance carrier in action against electrical contractor and the manufacturer of a transient voltage surge suppressor where their actions caused approximately $1 million in fire damage to a new credit union.
  • Represented major utility company against claims of five deaths in a fire allegedly caused by a defective electric switch box in the basement of an office building in Chicago.
  • Defended asbestos abatement company allegedly responsible for a hospital fire. Claim alleged that a contractor at the facility had used a damaged power cord which ignited debris.
  • Defended against subrogation claim brought by two carriers for a house fire. We defended the electrician who allegedly installed wiring negligently.
  • Defended against subrogation claim brought by various insurers and store owners for a fire at a shopping center allegedly caused by a defective neon sign.

Fireworks Fires

  • Represented main defendant in a Southwestern Ohio fireworks case. The fire caused the deaths of nine individuals. Defendant allegedly turned off the water sprinkler supply prior to the fire starting.

Flame Spread and Smoke Claims

  • Defended subrogation claims arising from property and equipment damage resulting from a fire in a bookbindery in Indianapolis. Allegations of flame spread, smoke contribution, and equipment pitting damage from HCl acid caused from burning polyvinyl chloride bookbinding materials and book covers were made against our client.
  • Defended death and personal injury claims from the multi-district litigation proceedings arising from the MGM Grand Hotel fire disaster. Defended manufacturer of polyvinyl chloride naugahyde, wall covering, and polyurethane foam cushions involved in massive conflagration that killed more than 80 people, where claims against our client focused on flame spread and smoke contribution.
  • Defended death and personal injury claims arising from the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel fire. We defended manufacturer of polyvinyl chloride wall covering. Claims against our client were focused on flame spread and smoke contribution.

Gas Explosions

  • Obtained $1 million+ settlement for subrogated insurance carrier arising from a fire and explosion related to the release of natural gas from a bus refueling facility.
  • Investigated, prosecuted, and defended claims arising from natural gas and propane explosions.

High-Rise Building Fires

  • Represented major utility company in a multi-million dollar property damage claim regarding an alleged failure of electrical equipment in a high rise building in downtown Cincinnati.

House Fires

  • Currently representing national manufacturer of commercial and residential fluid control equipment including pumps, seals, and valves. Defending subrogation action brought by insurer for half million dollar property damage loss resulting from residential fire allegedly caused by defective sump pump.
  • Represented major utility company in a case claiming a defective toaster oven shorted and caused the death of a trailer park owner.
  • Defended insured landlord against claim for two deaths and several injuries allegedly due to a house fire. The fire was set by children playing with matches, and the landlord was accused of failing to install working smoke detectors.
  • Defended subrogation claims arising from property damage to a house involved in a fire allegedly resulting from a defective coffee maker.
  • Defended against a subrogation claim brought against a manufacturer of an energy management device which allegedly caused a house fire. The device was a radio controlled monitor, installed in the plaintiff’s home, able to alert the power company to reduce the energy usage of the home for the water heater at certain peak periods. Defense was based on the deficiencies of plaintiffs’ expert and the inability to establish the identity of the product or any defect in it causing the fire.

Industrial Fires

  • Obtained $540,000 verdict for subrogated insurer against remanufacturer of a hydraulic shear where defective shear released hydraulic fluid causing a severe fire.
  • Investigated and handled numerous fires involving forges, passages, piping, and systems in factories.

Personal Injuries

  • Represented a severely burned woman and her family resulting in a multimillion-dollar settlement.

Plant Explosions

  • Defended against subrogation claim brought against fabricator of an industrial asphalt plant which suffered an explosion. The system, constructed and erected by our client, allegedly failed to shut down when the amount of asphalt in the tank went below a certain amount. Plaintiff was deficient with the discovery to clarify the nature of the claim. Co-defendants were numerous designers and fabricators of the plant.

Recycling Facility Fires

  • Represented subrogated insurance carrier in a multimillion-dollar recycling facility fire that arose from the improper handling of magnesium scrap.
  • Represented subrogated insurance carriers in $1 million+ fire that arose on the premises of a company that was in the process of briquetting titanium swarf.

Refinery Explosions

  • Defended oil refinery process designer in oil refinery explosion that killed 20 and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage in Joliet, Illinois. Alleged cause was a metal vessel that broke in the middle, spilling petroleum that ignited.

Restaurant Fires

  • Investigated and prosecuted multiple claims against hood and duct cleaners and fire suppression system contractors for contributing to or failing to extinguish restaurant fires.

Roofing Fires

  • Investigated and prosecuted claims arising from negligently installed roofing materials that resulted in fires.

Warehouse Fires And Explosions

  • Defended national business solutions supplier in a $40 million dollar property damage and loss of business lawsuit arising out of an explosion at a data warehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • Assisting in defense of refrigeration contractor alleged to have caused a warehouse fire involving more than $100 million in damages.