Trial In Cole Creek Fire Scheduled To Occur Nearly 6 Years Later
A 12-person jury is expected to decide what liability the City of Casper has in a fire that destroyed more than a dozen homes nearly six years after it happened.
The fire originated in a woodchip pile at the city landfill in October 2015.
On Friday morning, Natrona County District Court Judge Catherine Wilking set a June 7, 2021 for the trial. It's expected to last six weeks.
Wilking set numerous other deadlines in the case such as when attorneys in the case can submit their final evidentiary objections and depositions.
"This case will ramp up," Wilking said Friday.
In 2016 the CIty of Casper claimed, under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, that it can't be liable for more than $500,000 in damages resulting from the fire. However, attorneys representing those affected by the fire dispute whether it was a "single occurrence."
Wilking ruled as much in January. The city appealed that ruling in the Wyoming Supreme Court.
The state's high court dismissed the appeal. In November, Wilking ruled that it would be up to a jury to decide the city's liability and what it potentially owes those affected by the fire.
More than a dozen individuals and families are named in the lawsuit but do not have attorneys representing them in the case. For many of those families, a difficult process is about to get more difficult as they navigate a complicated legal system.
Wilking noted Friday that those participating in the lawsuit without attorneys will be held to the same standards as attorneys with years of law practice under their belt as deadlines for legal filings come and go.
Robert Gilmore said Friday that he lost everything — roughly $500,000 in assets — and now he's fighting cancer. Hiring an attorney for the ongoing legal battle is out of the question.
"We're not in a position to argue things," Gilmore said. "We would just like to be treated like everyone else. We did lose everything."