Fire at attorney's office leads to Mo. AG's lawsuit

Nick Rees Jun. 15, 2010, 10:16am


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced on Tuesday that he has filed a lawsuit against two men from Dunklin County cited for violations of the state's air conservation laws.

Koster's lawsuit names attorney H. Max Hilfiker and contractor Carlton Stewart. The lawsuit, which seeks an injunction and civil penalties, follows a fire that severely damaged Hilfiker's law office. Stewart was then hired to remove debris from the fire.

"We all have not only a moral obligation, but also a legal obligation, to serve as stewards of our environment," Koster said.

"When people violate our laws by polluting the air and harming our quality of life, this office will not stand idly by."

Neither Hilfiker or Stewart arranged for an inspection of the debris to determine if it contained asbestos material, Koster says.

Asbestos material must be disposed of under the direction of a certified asbestos abatement contractor. The pair also failed to notify the Department of Natural Resources prior to cleanup of the fire damaged site, Koster says.

Following Stewart's demolition of the building, waste from the site was transported to Stewart's property and burned in the open air in violation of Missouri law, Koster says.

Stewart and Hilfiker did not respond to a settlement offer from Koster, whose lawsuit seeks civil penalties not exceeding $10,000 per day for each violation of the law as well as payment of all court costs and an injunction preventing the defendants from further violations of the law.

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