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Fletcher v. Havre De Grace Fireworks Co.

Decided: February 26, 1962.

FLETCHER
v.
HAVRE DE GRACE FIREWORKS CO., INC., ETC., ET AL.



Appeal from the Circuit Court for Harford County; Day, C. J.

Brune, C. J., Hammond, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ., and reargued on motion for modification before the entire Court. Horney, J., delivered both opinions of the Court.

Horney

The primary question posed by this appeal is whether the declaration sounding in tort against a corporation and its officers and directors contained such statement of facts as was necessary to constitute a cause of action against the officers and directors as well as the corporation.

On February 9, 1960, the plaintiff, Minnie L. Fletcher, owned and occupied a parcel of residential property on Chapel Road in suburban Havre de Grace. At the same time the defendants, Annette J. Fabrizio and James A. Fabrizio, her husband, now deceased, owned a parcel of commercial property directly across the road from the property of the plaintiff. This property was occupied by the Havre de Grace Fireworks Company, Inc., and the several buildings located thereon were used by the corporation as a plant in which to manufacture and store fireworks and other explosives.

On the day in question, a series of explosions (and the fires resulting therefrom) on the premises occupied by the corporation completely destroyed the fireworks plant and killed or burned to death James A. Fabrizio, and the explosions (not the fires) injured the plaintiff and damaged her home and other properties kept therein. This tort action was brought by the plaintiff to recover compensation for her personal injuries and property damages. In addition to the corporation, Annette J. Fabrizio, as executrix of the estate of James A. Fabrizio, who was president and general manager of the corporation at the time of the explosions, and Annette J. Fabrizio, individually, and Mary Lang, who were officers and/or directors of the corporation at the time, were also named as parties defendant.

The four-count declaration sought relief on four different theories: (i) based on trespass quare clausum fregit for damages to the property of the plaintiff as the result of the explosions; (ii) for damages and injuries to the person and property of the plaintiff as the result of negligence; (iii) for damages and injuries to person and property as the result of extra-hazardous activities carried on at the fireworks plant; and (iv) for damages and injuries to person and property as the result of creating or maintaining a nuisance.

A demurrer was filed by the corporation to the trespass q.c.f. and extra-hazardous activities counts, but it was overruled and no appeal was taken from the ruling of the lower court by the corporate defendant. Demurrers were also interposed by the individual defendants to all four counts and these were sustained by the lower court on the basis that the allegations in regard to the conduct of the officers and/or directors were "too general to charge them with liability." But, these same demurrers were in effect overruled insofar as it was claimed that there was no action for a common law nuisance on the facts alleged in the fourth count and insofar as it was claimed that counts three and four were duplicitous in that each attempted to allege two distinct and separate causes of action, and no appeal was taken by the individual defendants to the rulings adverse to them. However, the plaintiff appealed from the judgment for costs entered by the court

with respect to the rulings adverse to her. Hence, we are concerned here only with the rulings adverse to the plaintiff.

On this appeal the plaintiff has limited the questions presented to whether the allegations [i] (in the trespass q.c.f. count) to the effect that the officers and directors had and exercised complete direction and control over all phases of the fireworks manufactory, and [ii] (in the other three counts) to the effect that the officers and directors, knowing of or responsible for certain negligent acts and conditions, extrahazardous activities and nuisances done, conducted or existing in a fireworks manufactory over which they had and exercised complete direction and control, had failed to exercise reasonable care and diligence to avoid or correct the same and directly permitted the same to continue, were sufficient initial pleadings of the responsibility of such officers and directors for the trespass caused by the explosions and the damages caused by such negligent acts and conditions, extra-hazardous activities and nuisances.

While Maryland Rule 301 c*fn1 stipulates that a clear statement of the facts necessary to constitute a cause of action shall be sufficient without reference to mere form, a plaintiff is still required to state the subject matter of a claim in the declaration with such reasonable accuracy as will show what is at issue between the parties, so that, among other things, the defendant may be apprised of the nature of the complaint he is required to answer and defend. Fisher, Essentials of Maryland Pleading, p. 22. This the plaintiff has not done in this case.

In order to show that the officers and directors of the fireworks company are personally liable for the tort committed by the corporation, or, in other words, state a cause of action against the ...


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