Hawaii courts soon may have to address a novel legal question related to the Maui wildfires: whether allowing invasive grass to grow unheeded on one’s property is the legal equivalent of keeping radioactive waste, dynamite or a dangerous wild animal.
‘This is an ultrahazardous activity,’ plaintiff’s lawyer Ken Kasdan said, referring to what he alleges is a failure of large Maui landowners like Kamehameha Schools and West Maui Land Co. to control vegetation on their property. ‘There is not a lot of difference between your stick of dynamite and these fields of grasses just waiting to explode.’
Kasdan is one of the latest in a stampede of lawyers to Maui’s state circuit courthouse after the fires. His complaint on behalf of Lahaina resident Chardell Naki, whose home was destroyed in the Aug. 8 maelstrom, alleges landowners like Kamehameha Schools and West Maui Land fueled the devastating blazes by allowing combustible grasses to flourish on their property.
‘If you own the fuel, you own the fire,’ the complaint says.