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Insurance Co. of Greater New York v. Fire Fighter Sales & Service Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 27, 2015

INSURANCE COMPANY OF GREATER NEW YORK, as subrogee of Five Star Hotels, LLC d/b/a Holiday Inn Parkway East, Plaintiff,
v.
FIRE FIGHTER SALES & SERVICE CO., Defendant.

OPINION

JOY FLOWERS CONTI, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Pending before the court are motions for reconsideration filed by both Fire Fighter Sales & Service ("Fire Fighter") (ECF No. 178) and Insurance Company of Greater New York ("GNY") (ECF No. 183). Both motions challenge rulings made by this court in a memorandum opinion issued on February 20, 2015 ("Memorandum Opinion") (ECF No. 174) in which the court granted in part and denied in part Fire Fighter's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 139).

The underlying action involves water damage sustained by a hotel insured by GNY when a water-filled standpipe froze and burst. GNY was subrogated to the rights of its insured and alleges that the incident occurred as the result of a sprinkler system designed and installed in the hotel by Fire Fighter. GNY's second amended complaint asserted claims of breach of contract and professional negligence against Fire Fighter based on the incident.

In its Memorandum Opinion, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Fire Fighter with respect to GNY's professional negligence claim after concluding that a professional engineer did not have any role in the design or installation of the sprinkler system at issue. (Memorandum Opinion (ECF No. 174) at 20-21.) The court denied Fire Fighter's summary judgment motion with respect to GNY's breach of contract claim, concluding that there were disputed issues of material fact with respect to causation and the existence and terms of an alleged written contract. (Id. at 13-14). The court also rejected Fire Fighter's argument that GNY could not establish damages because it had failed to adduce expert testimony to support its claim. (Id. at 16.)

For the reasons set forth below, Fire Fighter's motion for reconsideration will be granted in part and denied in part. GNY's motion for reconsideration will be denied.

II. Standard of Review

The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is "to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Max's Seafood Cafe v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir.1999). A motion for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) must therefore rely on one of three grounds: (1) an intervening change in the law; (2) the availability of new evidence; or (3) the need to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. N. River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995). A motion for reconsideration is not properly grounded in a request for a district court to rethink a decision it has already rightly or wrongly made. Williams v. Pittsburgh, 32 F.Supp.2d 236, 238 (W.D.Pa. 1998). Litigants are cautioned to "evaluate whether what may seem to be a clear error of law is in fact simply a point of disagreement between the Court and the litigant.'" Waye v. First Citizen's Nat'l Bank, 846 F.Supp. 310, 314 n.3 (M.D.Pa. 1994) (quoting Atkins v. Marathon LeTourneau Co., 130 F.R.D. 625, 626 (S.D.Miss. 1990). Motions for reconsideration should not relitigate issues already resolved by the court and should not be used to advance additional arguments which could have been made by the movant before judgment. Reich v. Compton, 834 F.Supp. 753, 755 (E.D.Pa. 1993) aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 57 F.3d 270 (3d Cir. 1995).

III. Discussion

A. Fire Fighter's Motion for Reconsideration

Fire Fighter's motion for reconsideration is premised on a need to correct clear errors of fact or law contained in the memorandum opinion. In its summary judgment motion, Fire Fighter attacked GNY's breach of contract claim by arguing that, even if a written contract existed and was breached, there was no causal connection between the alleged breaches and the damage ultimately sustained by the hotel. (ECF No. 140 at 15-18.) Fire Fighter's brief focused almost entirely on the fact that the sprinkler system had been physically connected to a different standpipe than the one that froze and broke. (Id. at 16-18.) Fire Fighter relied heavily on an expert report in which Dr. David Bizzak ("Dr. Bizzak") opined that no portion of the sprinkler system installed by Fire Fighter had played a role in the freezing incident. (Report of Dr. David Bizzak ("Bizzak Report") (ECF No. 142-16) at 14-15.) Instead, Dr. Bizzak attributed the incident entirely to the infiltration of cold air into the stairwells as a result of the stairwell doors being left open or faulty operation of the pressurization fans in the stairwell, or both. (Id. at 15-16.)

In contrast, GNY's expert, Timothy McGreal, authored a report attributing the freezing incident to Fire Fighter's failure to ensure that the sprinkler system would be located in an area with an adequate and reliable heat source. (Report of Timothy McGreal ("McGreal Report") (ECF No. 147-8) at 12.) The court summarized McGreal's findings as follows:

McGreal, on the other hand, attributed the frozen standpipe to Fire Fighter's negligence in failing to verify that the sprinkler system would be located in an area with an adequate and reliable heat source. (Report of Timothy McGreal ("McGreal Report") (ECF No. 147-8) at 12.) According to McGreal, applicable state and local codes require that all portions of a "wet" sprinkler system, such as that installed by Fire Fighter, must be located in areas that are maintained at or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. (Id. at 9-10.) Malady, the only professional engineer employed by Fire Fighter, acknowledged that a wet sprinkler system should not be installed in an unheated area or an area that would be exposed to temperatures below 40 degrees. (Malady Depo. (ECF No. 147-3) at 50, 147.) McGreal opined that the incident would not have occurred if Fire Fighter had complied with applicable codes and/or if Malady had carefully reviewed the drawings. (McGreal Report (ECF No. 147-8) at 12.) McGreal also opined that the standpipe would not have frozen in the absence of the sprinkler system because the installation process caused entrapped air to be removed from the system, leaving the water in the pipe with no room to expand upon freezing. (Id. at 11.) Finally, McGreal dismissed Fire Fighter's contention that its negligence could not have caused the accident because it never physically altered the Pittsburgh standpipe. (McGreal Depo. (ECF No. 142-4) at 113-14.) To the contrary, McGreal noted that the two standpipes were not distinct components, but parts of a single comprehensive system with water pressure delivered throughout. (Id.)

(Memorandum Opinion (ECF No. 174) at 14-15.) The court ultimately concluded that the opinions offered by the parties' competing experts created a triable ...


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