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St. Charles County marina files federal lawsuit following devastating fire

St. Charles County marina files federal lawsuit following devastating fire

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ST. CHARLES COUNTY — Woodland Marina, which suffered a devastating fire that destroyed approximately 100 boats last month, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the owners of the boats.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, asks a judge to declare that the marina is not financially responsible for the damage to the boats, as the owners were required to obtain insurance for their property under their rental agreement.

Marina general manager Carl Bumba explained Friday that the suit was a defensive move filed by lawyers for the marina’s insurance company and is aimed at the boat owners’ insurance companies and not the owners themselves.

Insurance companies that represent multiple boat owners or sizable financial claims might look for loopholes in a rental agreement or file a lawsuit — regardless of the strength of a case — to force a settlement, Bumba said.

The suit names 59 owners and says 17 have already made claims against the marina for damages.

It says the Oct. 7 fire began when a marina employee was replacing the bilge pump float switch on a boat in the marina’s rack storage building. Flames then spread to the building and the surrounding boats.

The facility is on the Mississippi River west of St. Charles County Regional Airport, Smartt Field.

Ken Kirchhofer, who is not named in the suit but had a boat destroyed in the fire, told the Post-Dispatch on Friday that he knew that some boat owners only insured their boats during the boating season. Those policies began April 1 and ended Oct. 1, he said.

“They made it crystal clear — you insure your own boat,” Kirchhofer said of the marina.

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