Partner Michael T. Kearns Secures Unanimous Jury Vote in a Property Damage Matter

The jury trial took place in the Somerset County Superior Court from January 23 – January 26, 2017.  The case involved a property damage claim arising out of a house fire that occurred on November 1, 2011.   The cause of fire was combustible wood framing located on the backside of the masonry fireplace.   The plaintiff, the homeowner’s insurance carrier, paid their insured $369,789.07 for home repairs, loss of contents and additional living expenses arising out of the fire.  They then filed an insurance subrogation lawsuit against Mr. Kearns’s client, a chimney restoration and maintenance company, seeking to recover the monies they paid to their insured.

The insurance company asserted negligence and breach of contract claims against the chimney company and alleged that the chimney company should have discovered the wood framing on the backside of the masonry chimney when they performed a chimney sweep and a Level 1 inspection of the chimney approximately 9 months before the fire and warned the homeowner about that condition.   The chimney company contended that the wood framing on the backside of the chimney was a concealed condition and not discoverable through a Level 1 inspection of the chimney. The parties agreed to stipulate damages prior to commencement of the trial and try the case on liability only.

After a 4 day trial, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the chimney company. The jury verdict was by a unanimous 8 to 0 vote and the jury found that Mr. Kearns’s client was not negligent and did not breach their contract.