New Jersey company trying to get lawsuit heard on home turf

A fire at hotel across the country nearly a year and a half ago is making its presence felt in New Jersey. The Hitching Post Inn in Cheyenne, Wyoming, burned in September 2010, causing about $14 million in damages. The fire was determined to have been arson fueled by gasoline. The owner of the hotel, New Jersey-based CJM Hospitality, doesn't dispute that finding.

However, there has been dueling litigation filed by National Surety Corp., the hotel's insurer, and CJM Hospitality over who should bear the cost of the fire -- and where the suit should be heard. CJM Hospitality sued National Surety in New Jersey in December for not making good on its policy; National Surety sued CJM Hospitality in Wyoming in January claiming that the company misrepresented its finances and conspired in fraud and racketeering leading up to the fire, and should get nothing.

The first issue to be decided is where the case will be held. National Surety claims that the case should be held in Wyoming because that's where the fire happened. They have cited 48 witnesses in Wyoming who could testify. The sprinkler system, phone line and fire alarm batteries had all been inspected just days before the fire, but investigators found that all were disconnected when the fire took place.

However, CJM Hospitality says none of the owners or managers of the hotel live in Wyoming, and says any evidence from the site would have been moved or handled long ago. Whatever the outcome of the case, each company will want to make sure it has experienced litigators working on its behalf in order to obtain the best possible result.

Source: Casper Star-Tribune, " New Jersey or Wyoming: Hitch owners, insurance company argue about trial location," Tom Morton, Feb. 27, 2012

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