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Montana doctor sues North Dakota man over combine fire

FARGO, N.D. (AP)--A Montana doctor who created a private pheasant hunting preserve in North Dakota says a neighboring farmer should have been prepared for a combine fire that spread to the preserve.

The Bland Family Partnership, headed by Dr. Wiley Bland of Billings, Mont., has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Monty Larson, who owns a farm next to the Bland property near Hettinger. Bland said the fire destroyed hundreds of mature trees on the hunting grounds.

Bland claims Larson was negligent in the August 2007 fire because it was a hot and windy day and Larson had "no practical means of controlling a foreseeable combine fire." Larson should have created a fire break or had a fire extinguisher or water on hand, the lawsuit says.

Larson had no comment. Bland's principal attorney, Matt Gallagher, of Billings, did not return phone calls from The Associated Press.

The lawsuit says Larson has refused to replace the trees or pay Bland for the damage. Bland is seeking unspecified damages, alleging negligence, trespass and mental distress.

"Bland and his partners have experienced compensable mental distress arising from the destruction of the fruits of years of personal effort which were intended to provide benefits to the family for decades to come," the lawsuit says.

The hunting course is known as "the forest," and contained thousands of trees, it says.

"Under normal wind conditions, the hunters would enter and proceed through the forest, down a long row or planted trees, then turn 90 degrees to complete the hunt near ponds which had been installed by Bland," the court documents say.

"The hunt was extremely successful and considered to be an excellent pheasant hunting course," it says.

1/12/09
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Date: 1/2/09



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