Ill. Jury Awards $39.5 Million for 2001 Fire at Deere Warehouse

May 14, 2007

Two insurance companies providing coverage for Deere & Co. were awarded $39.5 million in a case stemming from a warehouse fire six years ago in Mount Joy.

An eight-member jury decided in favor of Royal Indemnity and Federal Insurance after a monthlong trial in Scott County District Court. The companies sought compensation from FM Global, a loss-prevention engineering firm that evaluated the massive warehouse for Deere before it moved in.

Ten weeks after Deere moved in $70 million worth of equipment _ based on the recommendation from FM Global _ the building burned down, said plaintiffs’ attorney Jeff Asperger. The plaintiffs, he said, believe the fire began when a high-intensity lamp exploded, and that there was not adequate water to fight the fire.

Steve Zenofsky, a spokesman for FM Global, said the company will review the verdict and decide if it will appeal.

Deere & Co., based in Moline, Ill., was not a plaintiff in the lawsuit. However, executives from the company testified during the trial.

“We have no comment on the outcome of this case, and the company had previously received payment from its insurance company for the fire,” Deere spokesman Ken Golden said.

The first fire call came in about 7 a.m. Feb. 20, 2001. Black smoke was visible from as far away as Geneseo, Ill., appearing on National Weather Service satellite images and reaching as high as 6,000 feet. Propane tanks on forklifts inside the building exploded as flames tore through the structure. No one was injured.

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