Two long years ago the State irresponsibly and callously lit a match in the forest in the driest March on record and left smoldering embers to reignite when predicted 80 mph winds spread the raging Lower North Fork Wildfire through a quiet, unprotected community near Conifer. Now the Attorney General is again ravaging the survivors’ hopes in court, asserting the State has no responsibility for righting the wrong they have admitted to. Their story has been a travesty of justice by the State led by the Attorney General and Governor for over 2 years.
May 2012 the Governor and Attorney General promised speedy restitution for the damages done, which included killing 3 people and destroying 23 homes and property. Then instead of implementing the law passed by the Legislature to provide speedy restitution, the Attorney General brought suit against the survivors only months later in July 2012, forcing them into the State’s ongoing lawsuit with the insurance companies. This required the victims to hire lawyers to protect their rights, further traumatizing them and increasing their crushing financial burdens. The Attorney General’s next ploy was to assert the State did not have the resources to evaluate the victims’ claims. He also went on record in the press blaming the survivors for delaying the process when it was his office that initiated the lawsuit against the victims.
This resulted in over a year of fighting the State in court to protect their rights. After months of legal delays a process of binding arbitration was agreed upon by all parties in court. The one ray of hope in this whole disaster was when the Judicial Arbiters Group, an organization of prestigious judges with vast experience in resolving claims including fire losses, volunteered to act as Special Masters for the court to value the victims’ claims.
The Governor and the Attorney General agreed the State to be bound by the Special Masters’ findings. The victims had to go even further and waive their rights to a trial by a jury of their peers.
Now that the Special Masters have completed their month’s long evaluation of the victim’s claims in a trial setting, the Attorney General has blatently rejected the claims in court.
When will the torment end for our neighbors? When will someone stand up to the Governor and Attorney General and say enough?! Has the State of Colorado lost all sense of fairness, responsibility and caring for its neighbors?
We only ask for what the Victims and the State agreed to in Binding Arbitration; that we are compensated what the JAG has awarded us so we can finally move on with our lives and put this sad chapter of Colorado history behind us.