Fmr. Teacher Ordered to Pay $750,000 After Lick Fire

Fire destroyed papers written by Albert Einstein.

By Erika Okano
|  Wednesday, Jul 6, 2011  |  Updated 6:48 AM PDT
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Fmr. Teacher Ordered to Pay $750,000 After Lick Fire

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A jury has ordered a Santa Clara County family to pay $750,000 for starting a 2007 wildfire that destroyed papers written by Albert Einstein.

Jurors ruled against Margaret Pavese, her husband Lawrence and her father-in-law in a negligence lawsuit according to the San Jose Mercury News.

San Jose State chemistry professor Dan Straus inherited papers written by Einstein, who was a friend of his father's. The papers were destroyed in the Lick wildfire that started when Pavese left a metal barrel unattended while illegally burning paper plates.

The Lick Fire burned 47,760 acres, most in Henry Coe State Park, and destroyed four homes and 20 outbuildings.

Pavese's attorney says he plans to ask for a new trial on the grounds that the award is excessive. If that fails, he will appeal the verdict.

Margaret Pavese is a former Aromas-San Juan Bautista School District teacher. She pleaded not contest to a misdemeanor charge of failing to exercise reasonable care in the disposal of flammable materials to prevent causing an uncontrolled fire.

She served 250 hours of community service and paid $200,000 in restitution to fire victims, including about $40,000 to Straus.

The state dropped a $16 million lawsuit against Pavese after the criminal case was resolved.

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