WSFD Photo
WSFD Photo

The owners of a ranch whose property was burned during training exercises at nearby Camp Guernsey in 2012 named the wrong defendants in their lawsuit, and so it should be dismissed, according to the Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office.

The Federal Tort Claims Act only allows lawsuits against the United States itself and not federal agencies, officials or employees, according to Wyoming Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen.

"In order 'to sue successfully under the FTCA, a plaintiff must name the United States as the sole defendant,'" according to Klaassen's response.

Kevin and Susan Rothschild didn't do that.

In their lawsuit filed in February, the owners of the 5,000-acre Bulls Bend Ranch claim the Colorado Army National Guard troops used ammunition and explosives that caused the 22-square-mile Sawmill Canyon Fire.

The fire burned and destroyed thousands of acres of the Rothschilds' timberland and grazing land, killed livestock and fish, caused erosion, and caused $6,773,703 in damages based on several market value analyses, according to the lawsuit.

They named as defendants the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney for Wyoming, the Colorado Army National Guard, the Wyoming Military Department, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Department of Army Headquarters 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson Office of the State Judge Advocate, and unidentified John Doe(s) National Guardsmen.

The Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office did not dispute the facts of the fire.

But the lawsuit is wrong under federal law to name the the military departments and personnel as defendants, and it should be dismissed, Klaassen wrote. "Taking this action will streamline the proceedings and eliminate unnecessary parties over which the Court lacks jurisdiction and against whom relief may not be granted under the FTCA."

Likewise, a breach of contract claim costing $300,000 asserted by the Rothschild's should be dismissed because U.S. District Court is the wrong venue. The claim should be filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for any claims over $10,000, Klaassen wrote.

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