Larsen v. 401 Main St. Inc., 302 Neb. 454 (2019), involved a fire originating in the basement of the Quart House Pub (Pub) in Plattsmouth, Nebraska that spread to and damaged Plattsmouth Chiropractic Center, Inc., a neighboring business. Fire investigators could not enter the building because the structure was unsafe and demolished. The chiropractic center nevertheless sued the Pub alleging that its failure to maintain and replace basement mechanical equipment caused ignition.
To prove its claim, the plaintiff retained a mechanical engineer who reviewed documents and concluded that the fire “originated from a failure of one of the items of mechanical equipment located in the area of the [basement] boiler.” Importantly, however, the consultant could not determine the root cause of the fire, could not eliminate the possibility that the fire originated in a compressor, and could not rule out the building’s electrical service as the ignition source because it was outside his area of expertise. The consultant nevertheless found that the fire most likely would not have occurred if the Pub had regularly serviced and replaced the equipment when needed.