VERTEX was retained by the San Diego Fire Victim Law Lawyers Group to perform damage assessment and cost of replacement estimates for hundreds of homes lost in the Witch Creek & related fires. Ted Bumgardner served as the expert for this case. The attorneys were representing over 500 plaintiff groups who lost homes and property due to the devastating Witch Creek, Guejito Fires and Rice Canyon that tore through large swaths of San Diego County in October 2007 due to downed electrical power lines.
“We recognized right away that we needed an expert to provide reconstruction costs for homes that were destroyed or severely damaged in the fires for use in litigation,” said Mitch Wagner, Attorney of the San Diego Fire Attorneys. “These were primarily individual custom homes, ranging from extraordinarily modest construction to some very, very expensive homes, so our task was extremely challenging. We needed to have well-documented figures to present as evidence and Ted uniformly delivered and was indispensable in this process.”
Our young firm had our work cut out for us. Bumgardner and our cost estimating team dove right into a complex and challenging assignment that kept us busy for over two and a half years.
“Unlike the previous wildfires in San Diego in 2003, we were not dealing with subdivisions with uniform housing types that could be easily replicated,” said Bumgardner. “These were largely custom homes that had undergone years of modifications, many with outbuildings, barns and other amenities that had to be accounted for in our cost-to-repair/replace estimates. Oftentimes, the owners’ records were destroyed in the fire itself or building codes and requirements had changed since the original structures were built, which further complicated our calculations. Every story was different, and we had over 500 of them. This was a massive undertaking, to say the least.”
Based on their many years of experience in the industry, the VERTEX team was able to develop a highly efficient and cost-effective system for tackling the assignment, utilizing surveys to streamline the complex process of conducting the evaluations and reconstruction cost estimates for hundreds of unique properties. In the end, it was this approach that made the difference in the successful resolution of the plaintiffs’ claims against the utility.
“I have practiced law for over 30 years and have dealt with experts in all walks of life providing expert witness and litigation service. Unfortunately, this cottage industry is routinely abused by experts who see it as a ‘gravy train’ and essentially hold attorneys hostage. Ted absolutely did not do that. Ted and his team were always conscious of working within a protocol that assured tremendous systemization and efficiency to keep the billing to a very manageable and reasonable level. I can’t emphasize enough how important that was when dealing with hundreds of people and properties. The whole system was implemented to be extraordinarily efficient. The quality of the work was outstanding and the support at mediation was terrific.”
This project was completed by Xpera Group, which is now part of The Vertex Companies, Inc.