State Farm sues flooring company claiming worker left lit cigs in waste can

Kelly Holleran Nov. 24, 2009, 5:49am

A flooring company is responsible for a fire at a couple's Lebanon home after its employee left a cigarette in a waste bucket, causing the fire, State Farm Insurance claims in a St. Clair County lawsuit.

State Farm Fire and Casualty sued Flooring Fashions Nov. 19.

According to the complaint, State Farm issued a property insurance policy to Jerry and Barbara Vinson, who owned property at Sec 9 T2N R7W in Lebanon when the fire broke out.

On April 3, 2008, an employee for Flooring Fashions arrived at the Vinson's home to tile their kitchen backsplash, according to the complaint.

The employee began smoking cigarettes in the Vinsons' garage and discarded the butts on the garage floor and in a waste bucket located in the northwest corner of the garage, the suit states.

"On April 3, 2008, a fire occurred in the northwest corner of the garage, where Jim with Flooring Fashions was working," the complaint says. "Upon information and belief, the fire was caused by negligent discarding of smoking materials by the Flooring Fashions employees. The heat generated by the cigarette was sufficient to ignite surrounding combustibles on the floor or within the waste bucket, which consumed the garage and spread to the residence."

Because of the fire, State Farm was forced to pay the Vinsons more than $450,000 for the damage to their property, it claims.

It blames Flooring Fashions for failing to safely discard cigarettes, for failing to maintain a safe work area and for failing to warn State Farm of its intent to smoke and to discard cigarettes in the garage.

State Farm seeks compensatory damages, plus costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief to which it may be entitled.

Philip T. Carroll of Cozen O'Connor in Chicago will be representing it.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-622.

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