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Seneca Insurance Co. v. Beale

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 5, 2014

SENECA INSURANCE CO. a/s/o WILD BLUE MANAGEMENT, LP, Plaintiff,
v.
MARK BEALE and MARKS MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ROBERT C. MITCHELL, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the Court is a partial motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), filed by the Defendants, seeking to dismiss Plaintiff's request for punitive damages. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

Plaintiff, Seneca Insurance Company, as subrogee of Wild Blue Management, LP, brings this diversity action alleging that Defendants, Mark Beale and Marks Maintenance and Repair, negligently performed certain electrical work at an unoccupied space at the Natrona Heights Plaza Shopping Mall, such that when other workers subsequently entered the property and turned the live breakers on, the flow of electrical energy from the transformers caused an electrical fire causing in excess of $6 million in property damages. Plaintiff seeks various forms of relief from Defendants for their alleged negligence.

Facts

Wild Blue Management (Wild Blue) was the owner of certain real and personal property located at 1800 Union Avenue, Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania and operated the Natrona Heights Plaza shopping mall, at which stores were leased to various tenants. (Compl. ¶¶ 6-7.)[1] In or about the fall of 2012, Lung and Wellness Centers of Western Pennsylvania entered into a lease with Wild Blue to lease existing unoccupied space at the property. (Compl. ¶ 8.) This tenant required that a neon sign attached to the front façade of the property advertising a former tenant be removed. Wild Blue retained the services of a general contractor, who in turn retained the services of Defendants to remove the neon sign. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-10.)

Defendants were responsible for disconnecting and removing the neon sign and, as part of that responsibility, had a duty to properly and adequately cut and cap the wires that were attached to the sign, disconnect the wires from the transformer and its 9, 000 volts by disconnecting and capping the wires at the circuit breaker and remove the circuit breaker from the circuit breaker box. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants did none of the above and left a "ticking time bomb" which ultimately resulted in the loss which is the subject of this suit. (Compl. ¶ 11.)

Subsequent to the removal of the neon sign, on or about December 17, 2012, two painters entered the property to paint the interior of the space leased by the tenant. Plaintiff believes the painters unknowingly turned the live breaker on in order to do their work, and an electrical fire occurred at the property that same day. (Compl. ¶¶ 13-15.)

Plaintiff alleges that:

The subject fire was due to the flow of electrical energy from the transformers located in the cavity of the façade to the cut wires from the neon sign adjacent to the exterior front section of the façade of the Property. The voltage carried by the wires was sufficient to produce heat which ignited the wooden combustible materials that made up the façade of the Property.
As a direct result of the fire, [Wild Blue] sustained serious economic losses including extensive physical damage to the Property, destruction of inventory, equipment, supplies, costs for emergency services, demolition, repair, and reconstruction, replacement of contents, temporary facilities, relocation costs, labor costs, loss of use, loss of income, and business interruption.
Thereafter, pursuant to the terms and conditions of Plaintiff's policy of insurance issued to [Wild Blue], Plaintiff has thus far paid in excess of Six Million Dollars ($6, 000, 000.00) to or on behalf of [Wild Blue] for the damages sustained as set forth above. Plaintiff continues to make payments to or on behalf of [Wild Blue] for the above-described damages.

(Compl. ¶¶ 16-18.)

Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this complaint on December 5, 2013. Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship in that Plaintiff is a New York corporation with its principal place of business in New York, New York; Beale is a Pennsylvania citizen; Marks Maintenance and Repair is a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business in Tarentum, Pennsylvania; and the amount in controversy exceeds the sum of $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and costs. (Compl. ¶¶ 1-5.) Count I (the only count) alleges that Defendants acted carelessly, negligently and recklessly in their electrical work as described above. Plaintiff seeks ...


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