Malibu fire victims to file lawsuit this week against state


A class action lawsuit will be filed this week in Sacramento Superior Court alleging the state’s indifference to years of reports about partying at the top of Corral Canyon led to the Corral Fire in November. The fire, Malibu’s worst since 1993, started after an illegal campfire in that area got out of control.

The plaintiffs are 18 homeowners who lost their homes in the fire, said Brooke Halpin, spokesperson for the plaintiffs. They are asking for $30 million, but that number could increase if the amount of plaintiffs goes up, Halpin said.

“They [State Parks officials] were aware for years that the park on top of Corral Canyon was a problem spot and did nothing about it,” said Halpin, whose home was damaged in the fire. He is not part of the suit.

Halpin said local attorney Jay Devitt and two law firms, which he did not identify, are representing the plaintiffs.

State Parks spokesperson Roy Stearns said he had not heard about the plan to file the suit.

“Until I read it [the suit], it would probably not be smart for me to comment on it,” Stearns said.

The Corral Fire began in the early hours of Nov. 24 after a campfire started inside an area known as The Cave at the top of Corral Canyon Road got out of control. The fire burned 4,900 acres and destroyed 86 structures, including 53 homes.

Five suspects have been charged with two felonies related to the fire. Although they have not denied being at the campfire, their attorneys have said any wrongdoing committed was not a crime. Three suspects-Brian David Franks, 27, Brian Alan Anderson, 22, and William Thomas Coppock, 23-have pleaded not guilty. The other two-Eric Matthew Ullman, 18, and Dean Allen Lavorante, 19-appeared in court for the first time last month, but did not make formal pleas.

In December, Devitt alerted The Malibu Times he was trying to gather clients for a potential suit against the state because state officials had failed to secure the area. At the time, Stearns said, “Our feeling is that with the shortage of rangers that we have, our people did all they could under the circumstances to address these issues.”

Halpin said he expects the suit to be filed Wednesday or Thursday. A press conference to formally announce the suit will take place at 2 p.m. at the top of Corral Canyon Road.