Civil Procedure Keyed to Yeazell
State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Century Home
The fire giving rise to this litigation occurred in the summer of 1968. The Defendant, Century Home (Defendant), had constructed prefabricated housing in a large shed. The Plaintiffs’, forty-eight property owners, consolidated into a single action as State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. (Plaintiffs) property was stored in a warehouse, which was located sixty feet from Defendant’s shed and which was connected thereto by a wooden loading dock. On the side of Defendant’s shed was a wooden box, into which Defendant’s janitor had dumped a mix of linseed oil and dry sawdust the night before the fire. No employees were present at the time the fire started. The cause and point of origin of the fire were in dispute, but it was clear that the fire spread via the loading dock and caused substantial damage to Defendant’s shed, the warehouse and its contents. Shortly thereafter, this action was filed against Defendant to recover losses from the fire. Three of these actions proceeded separately through trial to final judgment. In each case the plaintiffs alleged that Defendant was negligent with respect to both the start and spread of the fire. Two of the cases found in favor of the plaintiffs, one by jury verdict and the other by the court sitting without a jury. Both were affirmed on appeal. The third verdict found in favor of Defendants, the jury in that case finding them not liable. Following those two judgments, the present Plaintiffs filed amended and supplemental complaints, conforming their allegations to those in the foregoing cases and asserted that the judgments therein should operate to preclude Defendant from again litigating the question of liability. The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs.
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