In a recent Eastern District of PA case, Zurich Am. Ins. Co. v. A.T. Chadwick Co., Inc., the court denied a third-party defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a construction defect case. The court found that jury could assign a percentage of the blame to the third-party defendant for a “quick fix” gone bad.
In this case, a homeowner had a broken pike in their home which leaked and sagged in the home. It was installed by the primary defendant when building the home. However, when damages were noticed, the property manager asked a third party to perform a temporary repair of the leaking pipe until such time as the primary defendant could come back to correct its installation. The pipe was repaired but again failed before the primary defendant that originally installed the pipe could return to fix the pipe permanently. As a result, the primary defendant brought claims against the third-party “quick fixer” who performed the temporary repair.
The “quick fixer” who performed the temporary repair argued that it had no relationship with the primary defendant that would give rise to a legal duty. The court found in favor of the primary defendant and denied the motion for summary judgment. The court stated that although, “correct to the extent that there was no contractual or business relationship that would give rise to a duty.” Nevertheless, a duty did exist because the third party attempted to fix the leak and had a duty of reasonable care to perform a functional temporary fix. Additionally, the court went on to consider that a key factor in the recognition of a legal duty falls to the risk and foreseeability of harm. The importance of the temporary repair required a greater duty of the third-party to prevent the leak from continuing before the primary defendant could permanently fix the pipe. As result the third party’s inability to show that they owned no duty and a blame for damages could be portioned to them led the court to deny the motion for summary judgment.
This case confirms highlights precedent that when someone takes on an undertaking to fix or correct a defect, a duty is created.
Thanks to Kevin Riley for his assistance with this post. Should you have any questions, please contact Tom Bracken.