Author Archives: Daniel Klein

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$150M Verdict against Jeep Manufacturer — Cut to $40M — Heads to the Georgia Court of Appeals

In Fiat Chrysler Automobiles v. Walden, No. A16A1285, Fiat Chrysler is appealing the trial court’s final judgment on liability and damages in a case involving a high-speed rear-end collision that punctured the gas tank of a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, causing it to explode. At trial, the family of a 4-year-old boy killed in the crash argued that the design of the jeep was defective and dangerous in that its gas tank was located in the crush-zone between the rear bumper and axle. The…

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Eleventh Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on Bad-Faith Claim Finding Sufficient Evidence to Demonstrate Insurance Company Should Have Known Experts’ Fire Cause Opinions Were Unreliable

On February 29, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of an insurance company on a yacht owner’s bad-faith claim. In Atl. Specialty Ins. Co. v. Mr. Charlie Adventures, LLC, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 3619 (11th Cir. Ala. Feb. 29, 2016), a 40-foot yacht named “Mr. Charlie” was completely destroyed by a fire that started in its engine room. The owner filed a claim with Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company as it…

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Subrogation Claim Demolished Along with the Evidence

When a fire consumed the majority of a Maryland home in 2013, the fire department investigation, consisting of inspection of the damage and witness statements, pointed readily towards faulty wiring in the electric meter box. The insurer of the house, whose expert was among those concluding the origin of the fire was the electric box,  received an estimate for the damage and quickly cut a check to the homeowner. They then pursued a subrogation claim against the power company responsible for the electric box, alleging…

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It’s the Expertise, Not the Title

In a recent case, an Ohio resident’s house burned down after she parked her vehicle in an attached garage. The plaintiff filed suit against BMW alleging that a design defect in the vehicle caused the fire. In support, the plaintiff proffered the expert testimony of a mechanic who opined that the vehicle’s design allowed for the buildup of heat between its stiffener plate and exhaust system, the subsequent ignition of adjacent leaves and the fire. The plaintiff further supported its position by alleging that the…

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Mississippi Court Snuffs Out Plaintiffs’ Fading Hopes of Surviving Summary Judgement in Odorant-Fade Case

As experienced fire litigators may know through case experience or study, the tell-tale, cloying ‘rotten egg’ smell signals a gas leak. Propane and natural gas are naturally colorless, odorless and tasteless, which is why federal regulations require natural gas companies to inject ‘odorants’ into gas lines (49 C.F.R. § 192.625(a)). What is perhaps less well-known is the phenomenon called ‘odorant fade,’ which is, as the name suggests, the reduction of concentration of odorant to a level where the gas is no longer detectable by smell.…

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