Dirk J. Muse and Kellan W. Byrne won summary judgment dismissal in Allstate v. Kuzmin; AIM Homebuilders in Pierce County Superior Court. Dirk and Kellan’s client, a general contractor, oversaw construction of a duplex in Tacoma, Washington. Before construction began, and throughout the building process, transients regularly trespassed onto the subject property, using the unfinished structure for shelter and leaving evidence of drug usage. The general contractor erected a perimeter fence and installed several “No Trespassing” signs, and frequently visited the job site after hours to ask the transients to leave. Prior to completion of construction, a fire started in the unfinished building and spread to the adjacent property and caused significant damage to the neighboring home. The Tacoma Fire Department concluded that the fire was incendiary (intentionally started), but could not identify a specific origin source. Plaintiff, the neighboring homeowner’s insurer, sued the property owner and the general contractor, alleging a duty to protect neighboring property owners from the fire, which plaintiff alleged was foreseeable based on the job site’s history with trespassing transients. On behalf of the general contractor, Dirk and Kellan moved for summary judgment on the basis that there is no duty to protect others from the criminal acts of third parties, as such acts are typically deemed unforeseeable. Specifically, Dirk and Kellan argued that evidence of transients trespassing onto the property, and even evidence of garden variety drug usage by the transients involving cigarette lighters, candles, and other drug paraphernalia, was insufficient to put the general contractor on notice that one of the transients was likely to intentionally set fire to the unfinished building. The Court agreed and granted dismissal of all claims against Dirk and Kellan’s client.
Oct 22, 2020