Court: Tenant liable for torched squirrel apartment fire

A fire at ClearView Apartments in Holland Township (Courtesy Dan Millisor via ReportIt - Oct. 10, 2012)

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A woman whose boyfriend sparked an apartment fire by blowtorching a squirrel may be liable for millions of dollars in damages, a court has ruled.

The Michigan Court of Appeals said Barbara Pellow may be responsible for up to $2 million in damages caused by the October 2012 fire at ClearView Apartments in Holland Township.

Investigators determined the fire was caused by Pellow’s boyfriend, Khek Chanthalavong, who was burning fur off a dead squirrel on the apartment’s deck.

ClearView Apartments and its insurance company sued Pellow for $2 million, arguing her lease agreement made her liable for damages caused by her and her guests.

However in January 2015, an Ottawa County judge ruled a portion of Pellow’s lease agreement was illegal. The judge ruled Pellow was only liable for $15,421.08 in damages to appliances, air conditioning and heating equipment.

The Michigan Court of Appeals sided with the apartment complex Tuesday, ruling Pellow’s lease agreement was legal and clear and that Pellow is liable for damages. The case now returns to Ottawa County court.

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