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Gordon Einhorn wins subrogation trial arising from fire loss.


Plaintiff, Mutual Benefit, insured a property owned by Palm Management Company.  Palm Management leased one of the residential units in the property to Defendant, Hope Mennonite Fellowship Missions, which then allowed a family suffering from financial hardship to live in the unit.  A month after the family moved in, there was a fire in the second floor master bedroom which substantially damaged the property and Mutual Benefit paid its insured (Palm Management) $71,233.16 for property damage and lost rents.  Mutual Benefit, represented by Gordon Einhorn, subsequently brought a subrogation action against Hope Mennonite stating claims for negligence and breach of contract.  The contract claim was based on the lease between Hope Mennonite and Palm Management, which stated that the tenant (Hope Mennonite) would be liable for any damage caused by the tenant or its guests.  The lease also made Hope Mennonite liable for attorney’s fees.

At trial, Plaintiff’s cause and origin expert testified that the fire was caused because the bed in the master bedroom had been pushed too close to the wall, crushing the lamp plug, which was plugged into the receptacle at the head of the bed.  According to the expert, this caused a short and arcing, which ignited the mattress, resulting in the spread of the fire throughout the bedroom.  The parties stipulated that the amount of the damages was the full amount being sought by the Plaintiff and that the issue of attorneys’ fees would be reserved for a post-trial motion to be filed in the event that the jury found in Plaintiff’s favor on the question of liability.  Plaintiff also determined that the negligence claim would not be put to the jury and that there need only be a determination of liability under the lease, which provided for damages if the fire was caused by the tenant or its guests.  As such, the only question submitted to the jury was whether it found by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant, Hope Mennonite, or its guests, caused the fire at the insured property.  The jury answered this question in the affirmative.  A post-trial motion for attorneys’ fees was then granted and the Court entered judgment in favor of Mutual Benefit for the full amount of damages and attorneys’ fees.

Questions about this case can be directed to Gordon Einhorn, at 717-441-7054 or geinhorn@tthlaw.com.

Gordon Einhorn
Gordon A. Einhorn, Esquire