Unethical Advertising?

By: Auburn Hutton Email
By: Auburn Hutton Email

We tried to contact the attorney advertising to victims, but he has not returned our calls, so we spoke with a Reno lawyer about lawsuits surrounding the Angora Fire.

He said the Los Angeles-based attorney may have hit a jackpot, since the 200 plus South Lake Tahoe victims may have some pretty strong cases.

Personal injury attorney Rich Salvatore has been keeping a close eye on all the talk surrounding the Angora Fire. He says the residents of South Lake Tahoe who lost their homes do have legal rights.

"Anybody that was adversely financially affected by the fire. In Lake Tahoe, probably 250 homeowners, 50 businesses, and God knows how many other unfortunate people."

He says he can only assume that some victims will target the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, or the TRPA the organization many Tahoe victims pointed fingers at after the blaze ripped through their neighborhood.

"If you look at this case, it would be, 'did they institute a regulation negligently, and did that negligence cause the properties to burn?'"

There's a catch though...courts could rule the TRPA to have "governmental immunity," which means they can't be sued. Salvatore says victims could then go after the person or persons responsible for starting the blaze.

"The purpose of punitive damages are to punish the wrongdoer so they never do it again."

Salvatore says the problem here is, they could be sued for the entire cost of fighting the fire...plus the civil suits from individual homeowners...and it's unlikely anyone could afford the tens of millions of dollars put toward Angora.

"Your average individual, besides Bill Gates, is not going to have insurance money for something like that. If they are sued and they started the fire, you'd never end up collecting that money."

This is just one attorney's perspective on potential lawsuits from the fire...and each individual homeowner could have a very different case, depending on the conditions surrounding their loss and what they decide to sue for.

As for questions about whether or not the ad is ethical? Salvatore says it really doesn't matter. The fact is, it's legal.

Attorneys can't go door to door and solicit clients in South Lake Tahoe, but they can legally advertise on TV, even in another state.


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