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State v. Labuda

September 23, 1996

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
STEPHANIE LABUDA, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-1-03607-2. Date filed: 05/22/95. Judge signing: Hon. Joan E. Dubuque.

Authored by Ronald E. Cox. Concurring: William W. Baker, Walter E. Webster.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cox

COX, J. -- Stephanie Labuda appeals the order directing her to pay restitution to her insurer for costs it incurred investigating the arson for which she was convicted. Because the company's investigation costs did not result from the arson, but rather from her filing a claim, we reverse.

In March 1994, firefighters responded to a report of a fire at the house of Stephanie Labuda. The firefighters broke into the basement of the house, discovered the fire, and extinguished it. King County fire investigators later concluded that the fire originated in a storage room in the basement and that there were no natural or accidental sources for the fire. Their theory was that someone started the fire by holding a flame to the contents of the storage room.

Investigators later contacted a neighbor who had noticed what he called "steam" coming from the Labuda residence on the day of the fire.

Approximately 10 minutes after he saw the "steam," the neighbor saw Labuda leave the home and drive away in her van. He later identified Labuda from a photo montage as the person he had seen leaving the residence during the fire.

Some two months later, a second fire was reported at the Labuda residence. No one was home when the firefighters arrived. They quickly extinguished two fires, both of which started in the family room on the first floor. The investigators found no natural or accidental sources of the fires. They concluded that someone had started each fire by holding a flame to the items burned.

No one had been living in the home since the March fire. But neighbors reported that Labuda and her husband returned daily to feed their dogs, which remained in the back yard. On the day of the second fire, a neighbor saw Labuda climb into her van in the parking area behind the home and drive away at a high rate of speed. Shortly after her departure, someone else reported the fire. The neighbor who witnessed Labuda's departure later identified her from a photo montage.

Labuda submitted a claim to her insurer, Grange Insurance Association.

She sought payment for the damage from the fires. Grange investigated the claim and denied it.

The State charged Labuda with two counts of second degree arson. She pleaded guilty to both counts. Following a restitution hearing, the trial court concluded that Grange was a "victim" under the restitution statute.

It ordered Labuda to pay restitution of $20,349.67 to Grange for its costs in investigating the fires.

Labuda appeals.

Labuda claims that the trial court erred by concluding that Grange was a "victim" under the restitution statute. She contends that Grange was not a victim because the company's investigation was not a result of the arson, ...


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