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Great Northern Ins. Co. v. Baltimore Gas & Elec. Co.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 11, 2019

Great Northern Ins. Co.
v.
Baltimore Gas & Elec. Co., et al.

         Dear Counsel:

         Plaintiff Great Northern Insurance Company (“Great Northern”) filed this subrogation action relating to a fire at the home of its insureds. ECF 15. I have reviewed the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, ECF 28, filed by Defendant Aclara Meters, LLC (“Aclara”). Plaintiff Great Northern Insurance Company (“Great Northern”) filed an opposition, ECF 30, and Aclara filed a reply, ECF 31. No. hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, Aclara's Motion will be denied.

         Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), which provides that a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose of the rule is to provide the defendants with “fair notice” of the claims and the “grounds” for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss 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.” Id. at 570; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions.'”); see also Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th Cir. 2017). But, a plaintiff need not include “detailed factual allegations” in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading rules “do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.” Johnson v. City of Shelby, 574 U.S.__, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam).

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint” and must “draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff.” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see Semenova v. Maryland Transit Admin., 845 F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017); Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015). However, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from the facts. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). “A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual allegations, and then determining whether those allegations allow the court to reasonably infer” that the plaintiff is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 566 U.S. 937 (2012).

         Under that relatively lenient standard, Great Northern's Amended Complaint sufficiently states a products liability claim against Aclara. The specific factual allegations in the Amended Complaint include:

10. Before March 2, 2019, defendant BGE installed a 400 amp electrical smart meter at the Property (“the Meter”).
11. The Meter was designed, manufactured and/or distributed by defendant Aclara.
12. On or about March 2, 2019, a fire occurred in the Meter (“the Fire”).
20. The Fire originated within the Meter and the actual fire was contained to the Meter itself and the remaining damage to the Property was from the smoke.
. . .
22. There was a failure of the insulation/isolation within the internal electrical components within the meter such that current flowed in an unintended manner creating heat and resulting in arcing events inside the Meter, which caused it to catch Fire.
23. The arcing occurred in the area of the last terminal in the Meter before the power goes to the house.
24. The significant arcing events within the Meter consumed many of the internal components making it impossible to identify the specific component within the Meter that initiated the failure.
26. Defendant designed, manufactured, and/or distributed the Meter, which was intended by the defendant Aclara to be used by members of the general public ...

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