A Clark, Wyoming, man who lost his wife to a deadly 2021 rural neighborhood fire has settled his lawsuit claiming negligence by the power cooperative and tree-trimming company he accused of sparking the fire.
Now there are a few more gestures toward gaining closure that Jerry Ruth can pursue, like finishing up repairs on his burnt home and property. He plans to repaint the inside of his house and replace the charred siding on the outside.
“I’m just trying to put my life back together,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “There’s still a lot of work to do.”
Ruth said his settlement with Pennsylvania-based Asplundh Tree Expert LLC and Montana-based Beartooth Electric Cooperative is confidential. He declined to discuss its terms.
His attorney Ken Barker said the same.
“The matter’s been resolved to the satisfaction of all three parties,” Barker said Tuesday. “We had worthy opponents on the other side, represented by very fine attorneys.”
Barker filed a Dec. 19 notice to the court saying his client agrees to have the case dismissed, after informing the court of the settlement Nov. 30. The lawsuit had alleged that Beartooth Electric failed in its duty to inspect the tree-trimmer’s work, and that Asplundh Tree Expert failed to maintain trees according to the National Electrical Safety Code.
Beartooth had argued that the fire was instead whipped up by hurricane-force winds and was “an act of God.”
Asplundh has argued that the fire was caused by circumstances beyond its control.
Asplundh attorney David Bona did not immediately respond to a Tuesday email requesting comment.
Beartooth Electric attorney Henry Bailey responded soon after publication, saying the fire was "tragic," and "We’re just glad (the lawsuit is) over for Mr. Ruth and his family, and for Beartooth."
‘Big Loss To Us’
It’s been a rough few years, Ruth said, adding the holiday season is not the same since the fire.
Ruth’s wife of 38 years, Cindy, died in the house fire Nov. 16, 2021, after a tree made contact with a power line and caught fire, his lawsuit complaint says. The fire ripped along Louis Lamour Lane in Clark and engulfed the couple’s home.
Cindy tried to flee, but was trapped in the flames, says the lawsuit.
“The holidays are a different time of the year because of the loss that we suffered,” Ruth said in his interview.
Ruth’s daughter and son-in-law live in Clark, while he has other family and two grandchildren on the East coast, he said.
His daughter is holding up “as good as she can.”
He and his family moved to Clark in June 2008, and Cindy Ruth loved the community, Jerry Ruth said.
“She loved it here. Loved her job. Loved living here. Loved all the adventures this area provided,” said Ruth.
Normally they would travel back East to visit grandkids and the rest of their family and friends around Christmastime, he said. But he didn’t go this year.
“It’s just hard right now,” said Ruth. “The family is looking forward to getting through this as best we can. Cindy was a big loss to us.”
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.