Wednesday, October 18 , 2017, 1:18 pm | Fair 75º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Tea Fire Burn Victims Reach $6 Million Settlement

Lance and Carla Hoffman will receive money from the owner of the property, Mary K. Robinson and the Mary K. Robinson Living Trust

A Santa Barbara couple who were severely burned trying to escape the 2008 Tea Fire will receive a $6 million settlement from the owner of the property where the blaze began, their attorney said Tuesday.

Lance and Carla Hoffman reached the settlement with Mary K. Robinson and the Mary K. Robinson Living Trust, according to their attorney, David L. Nye of Santa Barbara.

The Tea Fire broke out Nov. 13, 2008, and roared through the foothills above Montecito and Santa Barbara, destroying 210 homes, and injuring more than 20 people. The couple were hurt as they tried to flee from their home near where the fire started.

The Hoffmans asserted in their lawsuit that Robinson should have known that her Tea Garden property was being used by trespassers, and taken steps to prevent such visitors from creating dangerous situations for nearby residents.

Ten people, most of them Santa Barbara City College students, were investigated for possibly starting the blaze by leaving a bonfire that was not fully extinguished, but they were never charged directly with starting the fire. Most pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of trespassing and having an illegal bonfire.

Civil lawsuits seeking another $2.5 million are still pending against the students, Nye said. Negotiations are continuing with some of the students who have attorneys and insurance coverage, Nye said, adding that others have filed for bankruptcy.

The Hoffmans received $1 million in an earlier settlement with the owner of the property where they lived, according to Nye.

“I’m very pleased with the settlement, and although I realize it’s a big number, the number really pales in comparison to what our clients have gone through and what they are going to go through,” Nye said.

“It’s important to them,” he added. “It acknowledges some responsibility from the Tea Garden owners.”

Both Hoffmans are continuing to have medical procedures to address their injuries, Nye said, noting that their medical bills to date exceed $4.6 million. Lance Hoffman is attending school at Santa Barbara City College, and Carla Hoffman has returned to work — part time — at a local comic-book store, he said.

“They are doing better than I would have expected,” Nye said. “They’re trying to get their lives somewhat back to normal. They are very strong and resilient people.”

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >