At a Trial Setting Conference held on Tuesday, Oct. 4, the consolidated state-court 2013 Mountain Fire lawsuits — now seven in number — were set for an estimated 21-day trial in Riverside starting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in Department 4, Judge Daniel A. Ottolia presiding.
A Case Management Conference also was set for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in the same department. The date for a Mandatory Settlement Conference has yet to be set by the clerk’s office.
Most recently, the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists filed a separate lawsuit against Tarek Al-Shawaf and his employees, James and Donna Nowlin, arising out of the same incident.
Cal Fire investigators have indicated the blaze started Monday, July 15, 2013, on Al-Shawaf’s Mountain Center property due to an improperly installed and/or maintained electrical junction box. The defendants have filed answers denying all liability.
The Seventh-Day Adventists’ lawsuit is required to be consolidated with the previous six state-court lawsuits, headed by Cal Fire’s $8.5 million suit for fire suppression and investigation costs. The other five lawsuits, brought by several private parties and two insurance companies, have already been consolidated with Cal Fire’s suit.
This past July, the United States of America filed a separate lawsuit against the same defendants in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles seeking more than $20 million for fire suppression costs and damage to government property. There is, as yet, no indication that either the federal or the state actions will be transferred so as to be tried together.
The 2013 Mountain Fire destroyed several Hill homes and structures, and resulted in the evacuation of thousands of residents.