$750,000 Awarded over Burning of Einstein Papers

July 7, 2011

A Northern California family has been ordered to pay $750,000 for starting a wildfire that destroyed papers written by Albert Einstein.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that a jury last week ruled against Margaret Pavese, her husband, Lawrence, and her father-in-law in a negligence lawsuit.

The suit was filed by San Jose State chemistry professor Dan Straus, whose father was friends with Einstein. Straus had inherited papers written by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, which were destroyed in the 2007 wildfire that burned four homes.

Authorities say the fire erupted when Pavese left a metal barrel unattended while illegally burning paper plates.

Pavese later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and paid $200,000 in restitution to fire victims.

Attorney David Spini, who represented Pavese’ father-in-law, said he plans to seek a new trial on the grounds that the $750,000 award is excessive. If that fails, he plans to appeal.

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