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  • Writer's pictureMyron

February 2012

A two week trial dominated the news at ALO during February. Thirty-two Hooper Bay folks sued the Lower Yukon School District for the loss of their homes and property in a fire started by kids under the local elementary school. It was claimed the school was at fault because they failed to keep the kids from entering the area under the school by means such as replacing the plywood skirting with chain link fencing. ALO represented the school, and argued that parental control was the main issue, especially because the fire was started between 11 pm and 3 am in August. The jury cleared the school district, in a deliberation that lasted about 15 minutes.

It was the most poorly presented trial that ALO has encountered. Most of the plaintiffs did not appear or testify, even by telephone. There was no list of lost items presented. An economist from Anchorage simply presented two numbers to the jury, one for lost real estate and one for lost personal property. He defended his numbers with long rambling answers to simple questions, which resulted in him being called a "windbag" by the school's lawyer during final arguments. The economist valued one house, a two story plywood structure built about 30 years ago, at $679,000, and many others in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. He suggested the proper measure of damages was to award an amount for a generic kitchen, living room, and bedrooms, based on the new value of items that would normally be found in such rooms, whether or not the burned houses actually had those items in them, and regardless of the age and condition of the items.

Before the jury retired to deliberate, the court ruled that many of the claimants could not recover for their burned houses because they failed to present evidence of the size of their houses, thus leaving the jury insufficient information upon which to base a decision. The court also ruled that the proper measure of damages was the depreciated value of the item. The plaintiffs presented only the cost of new items throughout the trial. The school was not allowed to present evidence about the massive relief effort which sent tons of supplies, new and used, to the families.

In discussion with dozens of people in the years since the fire, all indicated they would find the school not responsible for the acts of the arsonists. In fact, the court had once ended the case on that basis, but later reconsidered and allowed the case to proceed. The trial was costly and contentious. It should never have happened, but at least the verdict was right. Now the folks who lost the suit face the prospect of paying a portion of the costs and fees for the school district.

While that trial was progressing, ALO settled a portion of another long standing case. A local man was injured in a plane crash in a nearby village several years ago, and the airline company has chosen to fight his case vigorously. To that end, the State of Alaska and one of its contractors were brought into the case recently. Both parties quickly settled with the injured party, but the addition of the new parties resulted in a delay of the trial until 2013.

Enough legal news. Readers frequently report they prefer to read the rest of the stuff that makes the ALO news each month. The Fairbanks family has entertained ALO and the Angstman family for years, but few of those stories can match this month's offering. Ashley Fairbanks is a nursing student in Anchorage, and one of her jobs is to interview patients to find out any health issues they might have. Recently she interviewed a married couple in their 90s. For those who might be concerned, no names were revealed in Ashley's report. Ashley noticed that the couple appeared to be quite spry, so she inquired what kind of exercise they engaged in. The wife responded in this fashion. "We have two types of exercise we try to do every day. We go for walks, and we have sex. But some days we have sex twice, so on those days we don't go for a walk." Always the professional, Ashley recorded the comments, and as a public service, passed them along to the Bethel elders that she soon encountered. Some of them vowed to cut back on their walking.

This site has often linked to Katie Basile's photography.

She just completed a long stay in Alaska and has added to her collection of rural images. Speaking of pictures, this month there are two moose shots that made the cut. One walked into an Anchorage Hospital , and the other peeked in a window. This VW is worth checking as well.

Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams was a regular visitor to Princeton after playing minor league ball in Minneapolis. He befriended Uncle Ralph Angstman who took him on numerous hunting and fishing trips, including some to the Angstman farm for ducks and pheasants. These two pictures from February of 1941 are from a dinner party at Ralph's house with several Angstman family members present. The first shot shows Ted seated at the table with family members, but in the second picture Ted is missling. Apparently he thought it would be a good idea for Ralph, who took the first picture, to get in the second shot. Of course he failed to consider that the only reason they were taking pictures was to show Ted Williams at their table. The visit was just before the start of spring training, and the dinner must have agreed with Ted, cause that year he hit .406, the last time anyone broke the .400 mark.

Finally, a food story to wrap up the month. Ben and Sarah, at the urging of Lisa Whalen, embarked on a seven day fast (tea only) during February to clear toxins from their systems. They stopped over on Sunday evening to stoke up a bit, figuring that a few extra toxins on Sunday would be gone shortly. Tuesday night Ben called to say the fast was over for both Ben and Lisa. Ben reported that after consulting with Lisa he had eased back into eating, which meant non-stop consumption for several hours. He proudly reported that he had outlasted Sarah who had made it only until lunch time on Monday. In Sarah's defense, she pointed out that it was a late lunch.


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