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State Auto Property and Casualty Insurance Co. v. Cap Electric, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 20, 2017

STATE AUTO PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE CO., as subrogee of Milton and Carol McAllister Investment Property LLC d/b/a Bigfoots Steak and Hoagie Restaurant Plaintiff,
v.
CAP ELECTRIC, INC., DELMARVA POWER AND LIGHT CO. Defendants. CAP ELECTRIC, INC. Cross-Plaintiff,
v.
DELMARVA POWER AND LIGHT CO. Cross-Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff State Auto Property and Casualty Insurance Company, as subrogee of Milton and Carol McAllister Investment Property, LLC d/b/a Bigfoots Steak and Hoagie Restaurant (“Plaintiff” or “State Auto”) has brought this action against Defendants Cap Electric (“CAP”) and Delmarva Power and Light Company (“DPL”) alleging Negligence by both CAP and DPL (Counts I & III), Breach of Contract by CAP (Count II), and Gross Negligence by DPL (Count IV) in connection with a fire that destroyed the Bigfoots Steak and Hoagie Restaurant in Rising Sun, Maryland (ECF No. 19.) Based on State Auto's suit, CAP has filed a Crossclaim for indemnification and contribution against DPL. (ECF No. 38.)

         Currently pending before this Court are Defendant DPL's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 25) and Cross-Defendant DPL's Motion to Dismiss CAP's Amended Crossclaim (ECF No. 42).[1] The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated herein, DPL's Motion to Dismiss State Auto's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 25) is DENIED. DPL's Motion to Dismiss CAP's Crossclaim (ECF No. 42) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, it is GRANTED as to CAP's indemnity claim, which is dismissed, and it is DENIED as to CAP's contribution claim, which remains pending.

         BACKGROUND

         At the motion to dismiss stage, this Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the Plaintiffs complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011).

         Bigfoots Steak and Hoagie is a sandwich restaurant in Rising Sun, Maryland owned by Plaintiff Milton and Carol McAllister Investment Properties. (Am. Compl. ECF No. 19 at 2.) Prior to June 7, 2015, Bigfoots retained CAP to periodically repair electric equipment and assist in electrical service to the restaurant. (Id. ¶ 8.) Pursuant to the service agreement, CAP upgraded the pre-existing service, installed a new electrical panel/trough, and replaced the electrical meter for the restaurant. (Id.) On or about June 7, 2015, a fire originated on the exterior of the Bigfoots Restaurant building at and in the electrical panel/trough for the restaurant. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff alleges that the fire spread from the electrical panel/trough and damaged Bigfoots' real and personal property. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff also alleges the fire was caused by CAP's improper and defective installation of the electrical wiring for the restaurant's electrical meter and the electrical panel/trough. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         The Rising Sun Fire Department responded promptly to the scene of the fire. (ECF No. 19 at ¶ 15.) As the fire's origin was electrical it, created a risk of electrocution to the firefighters. Accordingly, the Rising Sun Fire Department notified DPL of the restaurant fire at 12:07 p.m., consistent with the plans for “Priority One” emergencies.[2] (Id. ¶ 15.) When notified, DPL replied that it would “get someone right out there.” (Id. ¶ 16.)

         The fire department, acting in accordance with training and instructions it received from DPL, suspended fire suppression while it waited for DPL to arrive at the scene. (ECF No. 19 at ¶ 17.) In doing so, the Fire Department did not apply water on a live electrical panel, as it posed an electrocution hazard. (Id. ¶ 18.) Despite repeated assurances from DPL that it would respond promptly to this “Priority One” emergency, it took at least an hour for a DPL Technician to report to the scene. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff alleges that on prior occasions, DPL responded to Priority One emergencies in less than 15 minutes after receiving notification of the emergency. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff further alleges that DPL's delay resulted in the Fire Department's inability to suppress the flames, allowing the fire to spread from the electrical panel/trough into the restaurant, causing additional damage. (Id. ¶ 23.) The fire resulted in damages exceeding five hundred thousand dollars ($500, 000.00) to Bigfoots Restaurant. (Id. ¶ 24.)

         On October 28, 2016, Plaintiff State Auto filed its initial Complaint.[3] (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff filed its Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1)(B) on December 21, 2016. (ECF No. 19.) On January 13, 2017, Defendant DPL filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 25.) CAP filed an Amended Crossclaim against DPL and included claims for Indemnification and/or Contribution on February 17, 2017. (ECF No. 38.) On February 28, 2017, Cross-Defendant DPL filed a Motion to Dismiss Defendant CAP's Amended Crossclaim Against DPL. (ECF No. 42.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is “to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006); see also Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016). A complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009). Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013).

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court “accepts the facts as alleged” in the Plaintiff's complaint. Quintana v. City of Alexandria, et al., No. 16-1630, 2017 WL 2438774, at *1 (4th Cir. June 6, 2017) (citing LeSeur-Richmond Slate Corp. v. Fehrer, 666 F.3d 261, 264 (4th Cir. 2012)); Semenova v. Maryland Transit Admin., 845 F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017). “At the motion to dismiss stage, [the court must] accept as true all of the well-pleaded allegations and view the complaint in the light most favorable to [Plaintiff].” Id. While a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to plead a claim); see A Society Without a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011).

         ANALYSIS

         I. DPL's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 25)

         A. Negligence

         In support of its Motion to Dismiss plaintiff's negligence claim (Count III), DPL relies on its Tariff with the Maryland Public Service Commission. Specifically, DPL points ...


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