Author Archives: Gus Sara

Gavel

Wisconsin Supreme Court Induced to Narrowly Interpret Exceptions to the Economic Loss Doctrine


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In Hinrichs v. Dow Chem. Co., 2020 WI 2, 2020 Wisc. LEXIS 2 (2020), the Supreme Court of Wisconsin considered whether two recognized exceptions to the economic loss doctrine—the “fraud in the inducement” and “other property” exceptions—applied to allow the plaintiffs’ tort claims to go forward. The court held that the fraud in the inducement exception only applies to alleged fraud that is unrelated to either the quality or characteristics of the product for which the parties contracted or performance of the contract. In addition, the court held that the fraud in the inducement exception did not apply to the plaintiffs’ tort claims because the alleged fraud was related to the quality and characteristics of the product, and thus was not extraneous to the contract. The court also held that the “other property” exception to the economic loss doctrine did not apply because the product at issue was integrated into a more complete product, and when that happened, the completed product ceased to be “other property” for purposes of the economic loss doctrine. This case narrows the application of two exceptions to the economic loss doctrine, which is a common defense in product defect cases. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Economic Loss Rule, Fraud - Misrepresentation, Products Liability, Wisconsin and tagged , , .
Large Property Loss

Massachusetts Court Holds Statute of Repose Does Not Apply to Claims for Failure to Maintain Property


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In Penn-America Insurance Company v. Bay State Gas Company, 96 Mass. App. Ct. 757 (2019), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts considered whether the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant, arising from an alleged defect in the defendant’s natural gas line, were time-barred by the six-year statute of repose for improvements to real property. The Appeals Court held that the statute of repose did not apply to the plaintiff’s claims, which were related to the defendant’s alleged failure to maintain its property. Thus, in Massachusetts, the statute of repose does not apply if the plaintiff’s claim is rooted in the failure to maintain an improvement, rather than negligent design or construction of the improvement. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Construction Defects, Massachusetts, Statute of Limitations-Repose, Subrogation and tagged , , , .
Fire

Establishing Proximate Cause Where Both Roads Lead to the Defendant


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In Westfield Ins. Group v. Pure Renovations, LLC, 2019-Ohio-4773, 2019 Ohio App. LEXIS 4829, the Court of Appeals of Ohio considered whether the lower court properly granted the defendant’s summary judgment motion. In its motion, the defendant argued that the plaintiff could not prove that the defendant’s conduct was the proximate cause of the fire at issue because the plaintiff’s liability expert identified two possible causes of the fire. The Court of Appeals, finding issues of fact remain as to whether the defendant was solely responsible for both possible causes, reversed the summary judgment ruling. This case establishes that, in Ohio, if all likely causes implicate solely the defendant’s alleged negligent conduct, a plaintiff’s inability to identify, definitively, one cause of a loss does not necessarily preclude the plaintiff from establishing proximate cause.

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This entry was posted in Causation, Negligence, Ohio and tagged , , .

Pennsylvania Superior Court Fires up a Case-By-Case Analysis for Landlord-Tenant, Implied Co-Insured Questions


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In Joella v. Cole, 2019 PA Super. 313, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently considered whether a tenant, alleged by the landlord’s property insurance carrier to have carelessly caused a fire, was an implied co-insured on the landlord’s policy. The court found that the tenant was an implied co-insured because the lease stated that the landlord would procure insurance for the building, which created a reasonable expectation that the tenant would be a co-insured under the policy. Since the tenant was an implied co-insured on the policy, the insurance carrier could not maintain a subrogation action against the tenant. This case confirms that Pennsylvania follows a case-by-case approach when determining whether a tenant was an implied co-insured on a landlord’s insurance policy. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Anti-Subrogation Rule, Landlord-Tenant, Pennsylvania, Subrogation, Sutton Doctrine and tagged , , .
Gavel

California Clarifies Its Inverse Condemnation Standard


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In City of Oroville v. Superior Court, 446 P.3d 304 (Cal. 2019), the Supreme Court of California considered whether the City of Oroville (City) was liable to a dental practice for inverse condemnation damages associated with a sewer backup. The court held that in order to establish inverse condemnation against a public entity, a property owner must show that an inherent risk in the public improvement was a substantial cause of the damage. Since the dental practice did not have a code-required backwater valve — which would have prevented or minimized this loss — the court found that the city was not liable because the sewage system was not a substantial cause of the loss. This case establishes that a claim for inverse condemnation requires a showing of a substantial causal connection between the public improvement and the property damage. It also suggests that comparative negligence can be a defense to inverse condemnation claims. Continue reading

This entry was posted in California, Government – Claims Against, Property and tagged , .
Figures

Ohio Court Measures the Damage to a Computer Network by Its Value to the Owner, Not Its Fair Market Value


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In Westfield Insurance Group v. Silco Fire & Security, 2019 Ohio App. LEXIS 2810, the Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth Appellate District addressed whether the trial court properly instructed the jury that the applicable measure of damages for damage done to a computer network was the network’s replacement cost value rather than its fair market value. Based on the unique circumstances of the case, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it instructed the jury on the replacement cost measure of damages rather than fair market value. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Contracts, Damages - Real Property, Ohio, Subrogation and tagged , , .
Broken Bricks

Wisconsin Supreme Court Holds that Subrogation Waiver Does Not Violate Statute Prohibiting Limitation on Tort Liability in Construction Contracts


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In Rural Mut. Ins. Co. v. Lester Bldgs., LLC 2019 WI 70, 2019 Wisc. LEXIS 272, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin considered whether a subrogation waiver clause in a construction contract between the defendant and the plaintiff’s insured violated Wisconsin statute § 895.447, which prohibits limitations of tort liability in construction contracts. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision that the waiver clause did not violate the statute because it merely shifted the responsibility for the payment of damages to the defendant’s insurance company. The waiver clause did not limit or eliminate the defendant’s tort liability. This case establishes that while
§ 895.447 prohibits construction contracts from limiting tort liability, a subrogation waiver clause that merely shifts responsibility for the payment of damages from a tortfeasor to an insurer does not violate the statute and, thus, is enforceable. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Construction Defects, Subrogation, Waiver of Subrogation, Wisconsin and tagged , , , , .
Gavel

California Court Invokes Equity to Stretch Anti-Subrogation Rule Principles


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By: Gus Sara and William L. Doerler

In Western Heritage Ins. Co. v. Frances Todd, Inc. 2019 Cal. App. Lexis 299, the Court of Appeals of California, First Appellate District, addressed whether a commercial condominium association’s carrier could subrogate against the tenants (aka lessees) of one of its member unit owners. After examining the condominium association’s declarations, as well as the lease terms between the owner and the lessees, the court held that the association’s carrier could not subrogate against the lessees because they were implied co-insureds on the policy. To reach its decision, the court explained that an insurer steps into the shoes of its insured, not the party with whom it is in privity. Although the first-party property portion of the association’s insurance policy did not, as required by the association’s declarations, have the owner listed as an additional named insured, the court held that it would be inequitable to treat the association as the sole insured for purposes of determining Western Heritage’s right to bring a subrogation action. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Anti-Subrogation Rule, California, Landlord-Tenant, Subrogation, Sutton Doctrine and tagged , , .
Time

Arbitration: For Whom the Statute of Limitations Does Not Toll in Pennsylvania


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In Morse v. Fisher Asset Management, LLC, 2019 Pa. Super. 78, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania considered whether the plaintiff’s action was stayed when the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint after sustaining the defendants’ preliminary objections seeking enforcement of an arbitration clause in the contract at issue. The Superior Court—distinguishing between a defendant who files a motion to compel arbitration and a defendant who files preliminary objections based on an arbitration clause—held that, in the latter scenario, if the defendant’s preliminary objections are sustained, the statute of limitations is not tolled. This case establishes that, in Pennsylvania, plaintiffs seeking to defeat a challenge to a lawsuit based on a purported agreement to arbitrate need to pay close attention to the type of motion the defendant files to defeat the plaintiff’s lawsuit. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Arbitration, Pennsylvania, Statute of Limitations-Repose and tagged , , .
Signing Agreement

District Court of Missouri Limits Whining About the Scope of Waiver of Subrogation Clauses in Wine Storage Agreements


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In Netherlands Ins. Co. v. Cellar Advisors, LLC, 2019 U.S. Dist. Lexis 10655 (E.D. Mo.), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri considered the scope of a waiver of subrogation clause in two wine storage agreements. The court held that the subrogation waivers were limited in scope and, potentially, did not apply to the damages alleged in the pleadings. This case establishes that, in Missouri, waivers of subrogation are narrowly construed and cannot be enforced beyond the scope of the specific context in which they appear. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Contracts, Missouri, Subrogation, Waiver of Subrogation and tagged , , .