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Posted September 5, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Lawsuit to seek compensation after fire

firefighters prepare to enter The Mad Bomber
Firefighters walk past a pile of hats as they prepare to enter the rear of The Mad Bomber to douse hot spots during an early-morning fire at the hat distributor on Imboden Drive in Frederick County in October 2006. Daily file

By Alex Bridges — abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER — A lawsuit accuses a hat company of negligence in causing a fire in 2006 that destroyed warehouses used by the firm and other businesses.

Jennings Investments LLC filed a complaint in Frederick County Circuit Court in late August against The Mad Bomber Co., with offices at 130 Imboden Drive. The plaintiff is seeking $609,101 in damages resulting from the Oct. 1, 2006, blaze as well as for months of unpaid rent following the fire.

Mad Bomber owner Brent Reynolds, who is listed as the registered agent, had not responded to the lawsuit earlier this week.

Jennings’ property consisted of seven, warehouse-style office spaces. Each bay contained gas Reznor heaters suspended from the ceiling, the complaint states. The plaintiff maintained bays 1 and 2 for business purposes. B-Safe Autoglass used bay 3; J&L Distributors had bay 4; and Mad Bomber operated in the three remaining spaces.

Mad Bomber sold and distributed fur hats made in China, and the majority of the company’s inventory consisted of these products and cardboard boxes. The defendant had about 50,000 hats in stock on or about Oct. 1, 2006, according to the plaintiff.

Mad Bomber “had a duty of care to conduct its business in a reasonable and safe manner, free from negligence and with due regard for the safety of the property of others, including property owned by the plaintiff,” the suit states.

However, employees of Mad Bomber stacked products too close to the suspended heaters in one of its bays, the plaintiff claims. This enabled the heaters to ignite the combustible items, which then started a fire that spread and damaged each of the seven bays, according to the lawsuit.

“Defendant’s breach of its duty of care was the proximate cause of the fire and resulting damages to the property,” the lawsuit states.

The defendant was notified of potential adverse claims it may face and was given the chance to inspect the property and the heater in bay 5, according to the plaintiff. The defendant’s expert on the cause and origin of the fires inspected the property on Oct. 3, 2006, and concurred with an assistant fire marshal for Frederick County that the blaze originated at the heater in bay 5, the suit states.

Damages sustained due to the defendant’s negligence are $583,781, according to the complaint.

The second count alleges that Mad Bomber breached its contract with Jennings. The parties entered into an agreement in November 2002 to lease bays 6 and 7 starting in January 2003. Mad Bomber requested more space and began leasing bay 5 in early March 2006, according to the plaintiff.

The original lease required the tenant to “indemnify and save harmless the landlord from and against all claims, liability, loss or damage whatsoever, including costs and attorneys fees … where damage to any person occurs as a result of the actions or failures to act of tenant during the term of this agreement,” the complaint states.

The complaint alleges that the defendant has not indemnified the plaintiff for the losses sustained and thus breached the terms of the lease.

The third count in the complaint alleges that the defendant owes the plaintiff $25,320 in unpaid rent for the remainder of the lease from October 2006 through March 2007.

The plaintiff has demanded a jury trial in the case.

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