In The News

Grand Prix Fire Attorney Cleared In Claim – Interview With Partner Sherman Spitz

(filed under: In The News | March 10, 2012)

Nearly 9 years after devastating fires ripped through the Claremont hills and surrounding are, ending in a $17.5 million lawsuit against the city, the fallout has finally reached an end.

A $540,000 claim has been cleared against the attorney representing the group who filed a lawsuit against Claremont. The Los Angeles Superior Court of Pomona ended the claim, filed by 2 residents represented by the attorney, late last month.

“Justice has been done. You don’t often get to say that,” said Sherman Spitz, representing the attorney who wished to remain nameless. “I was just doing my job to help protect my client after he had helped to secure a brighter future for 62 residents who tragically lost their homes and many of their personal possessions.”

Following the 2003 firestorm along the foothills, dubbed the Grand Prix fire, about 61 homes were reported damaged or lost in unincorporated Palmer Canyon residents filed a lawsuit against Claremont, claiming its negligence in properly clearing brush resulted in the extensive damage. A settlement was reach [sic] in March 2007, with the city of Claremont paying $17.5 million through the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, of which it was and continues to be a member.

After the settlement was reached, 2 of the homeowners approached Mr. Spitz’s client in late 2007 asking for compensation for their help and involvement in the case. The homeowners claimed he had signed a compensation agreement promising them a piece of his earnings if the suit was successful. The attorney refused to give them money, denying such an agreement had been made.

“They were asking for an exorbitant amount of money,” Mr. Spitz said. “They had no expertise in the profession, but wanted to get paid in effect like high-grade paralegals.”

Nearly a decade after the initial case, and with the Pomona Court judge’s favorable ruling, Mr. Spitz says his client is ready to put the past behind him.

“It [the case] required him to fly to Southern California and was a distraction for him to try and defend his work,” Mr. Spitz said. “We didn’t know why these residents were pursuing this and why they felt entitled to this exorbitant sum of money.”

“We are glad to have this behind us,” he said.

- Beth Hartnett