United States District Court, D. Maryland
HARTFORD FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, as subrogee of Mary M. Martin
NINJA JUMP, INC., et al.
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge
2016, a building in Maryland owned by Mary M. Martin
(“Martin”) suffered fire damage. Hartford Fire
Insurance Company (“Hartford Fire”), which
insured the building, compensated Martin for her losses and
then initiated the present subrogation action against two
defendants: Jumpy Bounce, LLC (“Jumpy Bounce”),
which leased the building from Martin, and Ninja Jump, Inc.
(“Ninja Jump”), which provided equipment to Jumpy
Bounce. After Hartford Fire filed suit, Ninja Jump filed a
crossclaim against Jumpy Bounce, claiming it is entitled to
indemnification or, in the alternative, contribution. Now
pending are two motions filed by Jumpy Bounce. First, Jumpy
Bounce has filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative,
for summary judgment with respect to Hartford Fire's
claim against it; according to Jumpy Bounce, that subrogation
claim is precluded by the terms of the lease it negotiated
with Martin. Second, Jumpy Bounce has moved to dismiss Ninja
Jump's crossclaim. No oral argument is necessary.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons
set forth below, the court will grant both of Jumpy
Bounce's motions to dismiss, with prejudice.
to Hartford Fire's complaint, Martin owns a building at
98 Industry Lane, Forest Hill, Maryland. (Compl. ¶ 6,
ECF No. 1). Martin leased the building to Jumpy Bounce, which
used the building for an entertainment complex open to the
public. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8). Jumpy Bounce
purchased inflatable slides and obstacle courses from
defendant Ninja Jump for use in the entertainment complex.
(Id. ¶ 9). On September 9, 2016, a blower motor
that Ninja Jump had sold to Jumpy Bounce for use with a
particular slide and obstacle course caught fire, causing
damage to the building. (Id. ¶¶ 10-12,
14). Hartford Fire, which insured both Martin and the
building, paid Martin $630, 915.53 to compensate for the
damage. (Id. ¶ 17). Hartford Fire now brings a
subrogation claim against Jumpy Bounce and Ninja Jump to
recoup its losses caused by the fire and ensuing insurance
claim. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 18).
Fire claims Jumpy Bounce owed Martin a duty to exercise
reasonable care while leasing the building and breached that
duty by, inter alia, failing to periodically clean
and service the blower motor, which Hartford Fire claims
caused the fire damage. (Id. ¶¶ 19-23).
Jumpy Bounce claims the lease precludes Hartford Fire from
pursuing such a negligence claim, because the lease provides
that Martin's insurance policy would be the sole source
of funds to address the losses at issue here. (Mot. to
Dismiss Compl. Mem. Law 1-2, ECF No. 14-1). The dispute
between Hartford Fire and Jumpy Bounce thus centers on the
specific terms of the lease.
lease contains several provisions related to property
insurance in general and fire insurance in particular. With
respect to property insurance, the lease required Jumpy
Bounce to pay, in addition to a base rental amount, a
“triple net rate” consisting of a
“proportionate share of the Property's annual
expenses for real estate taxes, Landlord's property
insurance and common area maintenance expenses.” (Mot.
to Dismiss Compl. Mem. Law, Ex. 2, Lease Agreement 4-5, ECF
No. 14-2). With respect to property insurance, the original
lease estimated that Jumpy Bounce would pay nine
cents per square foot of rented space each year to cover
Martin's annual property insurance expenses.
(Id.). The lease also provides for a
“reconciliation” of the “triple net
rate” expenses each year after July 1. Pursuant to this
reconciliation process, the “triple net rate” is
adjusted annually to ensure it aligns with actual expenses.
If the payments from Jumpy Bounce fail to cover its share of
the “triple net rate” expenses, the lease
mandates payment of the balance within 30 days. Similarly, if
Jumpy Bounce overpaid, the lease mandates that this balance
is “carried forward and included in the calculation of
the adjusted Triple net rate.” (Id.).
respect to fire insurance, the lease separately states,
“Fire Insurance. The Tenant agrees to do
nothing to contravene the policy or policies of fire
insurance by the Landlord on said property or to cause any
increase in the rates of fire insurance for said Premises or
property; in the event . . . an increase in the rates of fire
insurance is caused by an act on the part of the Tenant, then
said increase in the fire insurance premium shall be paid by
the said Tenant promptly on demand by the Landlord and the
Tenant agrees to pay said additional premium as rent during
each year of this Lease.” (Id. 10).
lease also contains a section on abatement of rent in case of
fire damage. First, that section states that, “[s]hould
the Premises be damaged by fire . . . but not to such an
extent as to render the same untenantable, the Landlord shall
restore the Premises within seventy-five (75) days and there
shall be no abatement of rent.” (Id. 18).
Second, the section states that should the premises become
“partially damaged” by fire such that they are
“untenantable, ” the landlord “shall
restore said Premises as promptly as possible and the rent
shall abate proportionately to the untenantability of said
Premises until the Premises are made fit for
occupancy.” (Id.). Finally, the lease states
that, should the premises become “entirely
untenantable” due to fire damage, the lease
“shall thereupon become null and void and all liability
of the Tenant shall terminate upon payment of all rent due
and payable to the date of such damage.”
Bounce filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, with respect to
Hartford Fire's negligence claim. According to Jumpy
Bounce, the lease terms detailed above preclude the
subrogation action. (Mot. to Dismiss Compl., ECF No. 14).
Hartford Fire responded, (Resp. in Opp'n to Mot. to
Dismiss Compl., ECF No. 15), and Jumpy Bounce replied,
(Reply, Mot. to Dismiss Compl., ECF No. 17).
Fire also brings three claims against Ninja Jump. First, it
claims a defect in the motor caused the fire and resulting
losses and that Ninja Jump is liable, because Ninja Jump
“designed, manufactured, assembled, and/or distributed
the blower motor.” (Compl. ¶¶ 24-29). It also
claims Ninja Jump is liable for breach of warranty and
failure to exercise reasonable care with respect to the
design, manufacture, assembly, and distribution of the blower
motor. (Id. ¶¶ 30-37). Ninja Jump has
filed an Answer, which includes a variety of affirmative
defenses. (Ninja Jump Answer, ECF No. 6). Ninja Jump also has
filed a crossclaim against Jumpy Bounce, claiming it is
entitled to indemnification from Jumpy Bounce. Alternatively,
if Ninja Jump is determined to be liable, it claims that
Jumpy Bounce was also negligent and must contribute to any
damages awarded to Hartford Fire. (Crossclaim ¶¶
6-11, ECF No. 16). Jumpy Bounce has moved to dismiss Ninja
Jump's crossclaim, (Mot. to Dismiss Crossclaim, ECF No.
18), Ninja Jump responded, (Resp. in Opp'n to Mot. to
Dismiss Crossclaim, ECF No. 21), and Jumpy Bounce replied,
(Reply, Mot. to Dismiss Crossclaim, ECF No. 22).
ruling on a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court
must “accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint
as true, ” and “construe the facts and reasonable
inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff.” Ibarra v. United States, 120
F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). “Even though the
requirements for pleading a proper complaint are
substantially aimed at assuring that the defendant be given
adequate notice of the nature of a claim being made against
him, they also provide criteria for defining issues for trial
and for early disposition of inappropriate complaints.”
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir.
2009). “The mere recital of elements of a cause of
action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not
sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6).” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435,
439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the
factual allegations of a complaint “must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations
omitted). “To satisfy this standard, a plaintiff need
not ‘forecast' evidence sufficient to prove the
elements of the claim. However, the complaint must allege
sufficient facts to establish those elements.”
Walters, 684 F.3d at 439 (citation omitted).
“Thus, while a plaintiff does not need to demonstrate
in a ...