Author Archives: Gus Sara

Fire

An Insured In-Part: Michigan Court Holds That Tenant Is an Implied Co-Insured on Landlord’s Property Insurance Only With Respect to the Leased Premises


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In Westfield Inc. Co. v. Ritcher, No. 20-CV-12692, 2021 U.S. Dist. Lexis 94926, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan considered whether a residential tenant was an implied co-insured on the landlord’s insurance policy, and thus shielded from a subrogation claim brought by the landlord’s carrier for fire damage caused by the tenant’s negligence. The court found that the tenant was an implied co-insured on the landlord’s insurance policy, but only with regards to the apartment that the tenant leased. The tenant was not shielded from claims for damage to the rest of the building, the contents of other residents and the landlord’s rental loss income. Continue reading

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

When an Insurer Proceeds as Subrogee, Defendants Should Not Assert Counterclaims Against the Insured/Subrogor


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In a subrogation action, one party is substituted to the rights and remedies of another with respect to a lawful claim. The substituted party (the subrogee) is legally able to pursue any right or seek any remedy that would be available to the subrogor regarding that claim. But can a defendant in a subrogation action assert any claim against the subrogee that it would have against the subrogor? In Federated Mut. Inc. Co. v. Kosciusko County, No. 3:20-CV-960, 2021 U.S. Dist. Lexis 88735, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana considered whether a defendant could assert counterclaims against the insureds/subrogors in an action filed in the name of their subrogee. The court held that since the insurerds/subrogors were not a party to the action and the defendant could assert the substance of its counterclaim as a defense, the defendant could not file counterclaims against the insureds/subrogors in the insurer’s subrogation action. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Indiana, Litigation, Parties, Subrogation and tagged , , , , .

Examination of the Product Does Not Stop a Pennsylvania Court From Applying the Malfunction Theory


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Pennsylvania recognizes the malfunction theory in product liability cases. This theory allows a plaintiff to circumstantially prove that a product is defective by showing evidence of a malfunction and eliminating abnormal use or reasonable, secondary causes for the malfunction. The malfunction theory is available to plaintiffs as an alternative to proving a traditional strict product liability case in those circumstances where direct evidence of a product defect is not found. In Pa. Nat’l Mut. Cas. Ins. Co. v. Sam’s East, Inc., 727 MDA 2020, 2021 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 752, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania (Superior Court) considered whether the plaintiffs could avail themselves to the malfunction theory if the plaintiffs’ expert was able to examine the product. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Litigation, Pennsylvania, Products Liability, Subrogation and tagged , , .
Gavel

Saved By The Statute: The Economic Loss Doctrine Does Not Bar Claims Under Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law


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In Earl v. NVR, Inc., No. 20-2109, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 6451, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Third Circuit) considered whether, under Pennsylvania law, the plaintiff’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) claims against the builder of her home were barred by the economic loss doctrine. The UTPCPL is a Pennsylvania statute that prohibits “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.” 73 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 201-3. The Third Circuit previously addressed the impact of the economic loss doctrine on UTPCPL claims in Werwinski v. Ford Motor Co., 286 F.3d 661 (3d Cir. 2002). In Werwinski, the court held that the plaintiff’s UTPCPL claim was barred by the economic loss doctrine. The Court of Appeals overturned its decision in Werwinski and held that the economic loss doctrine does not bar UTPCPL claims since such claims are statutory, and not based in tort. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Construction Defects, Economic Loss Rule, Pennsylvania and tagged , , , .
Gavel

What’s the Gist? Massachusetts Court Looks Past the Labels to the Gist of the Plaintiff’s Allegations to Find Claims Barred by the Statute of Repose


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In Lennar Northeast Props. v. Barton Partners Architects Planners, Inc, C.A. No. 16-cv-12330-ADB, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11800, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts considered whether a property owner’s construction defect claims against a contractor were barred by the six-year statute of repose for improvements to real property. Massachusetts’ statute of repose, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2B, bars tort actions against those involved in the design, planning, construction or general administration of an improvement to real property more than six years after the earlier of the dates of (1) the opening of the improvement to use; or (2) substantial completion of the improvement and the taking of possession or occupancy by the owner. Finding that, despite the fact that the plaintiff’s actions were labeled as contract, breach of warranty and consumer protection act claims, the complaint alleged actions sounding in tort. Thus, the court applied the statute of repose to these claims. Continue reading

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

Pennsylvania Federal Court Excludes Expert Testimony That Tries To Force a Square Peg Into a Round Hole


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In Kenney v. Watts Regulator Co, No. 20-2995, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4539 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 11, 2021), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania considered whether to exclude the plaintiff’s liability expert’s testimony regarding the sufficiency of the defendant’s product maintenance instructions. The plaintiff offered the testimony in support of his failure-to-warn product defect claim. The District Court excluded the testimony because the facts of the case did not support the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim, which rendered the testimony irrelevant. This case establishes that expert testimony can be excluded if there is an improper fit between the testimony and the underlying claim. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Experts, Experts – Daubert, Litigation, Pennsylvania, Products Liability and tagged , , , .
Gavel

Nothing Personal – Missouri District Court Holds that Defendant’s Nationwide Retail Website Does Not Subject it to Specific Jurisdiction


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In Allied Ins. Co. of Am. v. Jpauljones L.P. & Tek Elec. Co., 1:19-CV-00237-SNLJ, 2020 U.S. Dist LEXIS 179225, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri considered whether defendant Jpauljones, L.P. (JPJ) was subject to specific personal jurisdiction in Missouri because its website sold products to Missouri residents. The court held that the defendant’s nationwide retail website, with no particular focus or target on Missouri, does not in itself subject the defendant to specific jurisdiction in Missouri. This case further narrows the reach of specific jurisdiction based solely on the defendant’s direct internet-based sales into the forum. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Jurisdiction, Missouri, Products Liability and tagged , , , , .
Construction Defect

Massachusetts District Court Holds Contractors Are Not Additional Insureds on Developer’s Builder’s Risk Policy


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In Factory Mut. Ins. Co. v. Skanska United States Bldg., No. 18-cv-11700-DLC, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95403 (Skanska), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts considered whether contractors on a construction job were additional insureds on the developer’s builder’s risk insurance policy. After a water loss occurred during construction, the builder’s risk insurance carrier paid its named insured for the resultant damage, and subsequently filed a subrogation action against two contractors. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the anti-subrogation rule barred the carrier from subrogating against them because they were additional insureds on the policy. The court found that based on the particular language of the additional insured provision in the policy, the defendants were not additional insureds for purposes of the subrogation action. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Anti-Subrogation Rule, Insurance Coverage, Massachusetts, Subrogation and tagged , , , , .
Community Buildings

Virginia Allows Condominium Association’s Insurer to Subrogate Against a Condominium Tenant


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In Erie Insurance Exchange v. Alba, Rec. No. 190389, 2020 Va. LEXIS 53, the Supreme Court of Virginia considered whether the trial court erred in finding that a condominium association’s property insurance provider waived its right of subrogation against a tenant of an individual unit owner. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision, holding that the insurance policy only named unit owners as additional insureds, not tenants, and thus the subrogation waiver in the insurance policy did not apply to tenants. The court also found that the condominium association’s governing documents provided no protections to the unit owner’s tenant because the tenant was not a party to those documents. This case establishes that, in Virginia, a condominium association’s insurance carrier can subrogate against a unit owner’s tenant where the tenant is not identified as an additional insured on the policy.

The Alba case involved a fire at a condominium building originating in a unit occupied by Naomi Alba (Alba), who leased the condominium under a rental agreement with the unit owner, John Sailsman (Sailsman). The agreement explicitly held Alba responsible for her conduct and the conduct of her guests. An addendum to the lease stated that Sailsman’s property insurance only applied to the “dwelling itself” and that Alba was required to purchase renters insurance to protect her personal property. Along with the rental agreement, Alba received the condominium association’s Rules & Regulations, Declarations and Bylaws. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Implied-Co-Insured, Subrogation – Equitable, Virginia, Waiver of Subrogation and tagged , , , .
Community

New Jersey Supreme Court Requires Proof of Diminution of Market Value to Establish Damages


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In Kornbleuth v. Westover, 2020 N.J. LEXIS 298, the Supreme Court of New Jersey considered whether the trail court properly dismissed the plaintiffs’ trespass claim against their neighbors for failing to offer evidence of diminution of the market value of their property. The Supreme Court upheld the dismissal, finding that the plaintiffs’ damages could not be determined, as a matter of law, because they did not offer evidence of the diminution of market value of their property as a result of the trespass. Although the plaintiffs presented evidence of the cost to restore the property, the court held that determining the applicable measure of damages for a trespass claim is dependent on the diminution of market value and whether or not the restoration costs are proportionate to that value. Continue reading

This entry was posted in Damages - Real Property, Litigation, New Jersey and tagged , , .