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Encompass Insurance Company of America, As Subrogor of Stephen v. William Todd English

March 4, 2013

ENCOMPASS INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, AS SUBROGOR OF STEPHEN ISOLA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM TODD ENGLISH, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kimba M. Wood, U.S.D.J.:

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Encompass Insurance Company of America ("Encompass") brings this subrogation action against Defendant William Todd English ("English") seeking to recover damages English allegedly caused to an apartment insured by Encompass. Encompass filed its Complaint on April 19, 2011, asserting claims for negligence and breach of contract. [Dkt. No. 1]. English filed his Answer on July 11, 2011. [Dkt. No. 11]. The Parties subsequently engaged in extensive discovery, which concluded by September 30, 2012. [Dkt. No. 25].*fn1

Before the Court is English's motion for summary judgment. [Dkt. No. 28]. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

I.FACTUAL BACKGROUND

As required, the Parties have submitted Rule 56.1 statements. (See Def.'s 56.1 Statement [Dkt. No 27]; Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement [Dkt. No. 39]; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Counterstatment [Dkt. No. 50]). These statements reveal the following undisputed facts.

A.The Parties

Plaintiff Encompass Insurance Company of America is an Illinois corporation authorized to issue insurance policies in the State of New York. (Compl. 1). Defendant William Todd English is a resident of New York.

On October 9, 2007, English entered into a one-year lease ("the Lease") to rent an apartment located at 195 Hudson Street, New York, New York ("the Apartment") from Mr. Stephen Isola, a non-party to this case. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 6; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 31).

B.The Operative Agreements

The Lease required both English and Isola to obtain insurance, and also contained a provision whereby both English and Isola agreed to waive their respective insurer's rights of subrogation. The waiver of subrogation provided:

Unless prohibited by the applicable policies, to the extent such insurance is collected, [English] and [Isola] release and waive all right of recovery against the other or anyone claiming through or under each by way of subrogation."

(Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 7 (citing Lease § 22 E)).

Isola and English obtained the necessary insurance-Isola through Encompass, and English through The American Insurance Company ("American"). (Id. ¶¶ 8, 10). Isola's policy with Encompass permitted Isola to waive Encompass' right of subrogation so long as it was done "in writing[,] before a loss." (Coppola Aff. Ex. E). English's policy with American permitted English to waive American's right of subrogation under similar circumstances. (Id. Ex. G.).

C.The Fire

On September 21, 2008, a fire occurred at the Apartment. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 3; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 35). At the time of the fire, English was in Boston, Massachusetts. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 12). New York City Fire Marshall John Franzone, Jr. investigated the fire and concluded that the fire originated "in the area of electrical wiring in combustible material (plastic wire insulation)" inside one of the Apartment's closets. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24). Although Marshall Franzone "could not fully ascertain the cause of the fire," he "stated that it most likely was caused by electrical wiring." (Id. ¶ 25). Neither Party had experienced any problems with the closet's light fixture or the Apartment's electrical system prior to the fire. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 60; Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 13).

Both Parties hired experts to investigate the cause of the fire. English's expert, William Nolan, determined that the fire originated in the closet at issue, but could not determine the cause. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 27; Pl's 56.1 ¶ 27). In contrast, Encompass' expert, Bruce Bohlander, concluded that the fire began "because combustible bedding material was overstuffed into the [closet]" so as to come into contact with the exposed light bulbs in the light fixture, causing the material to ignite. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 38).

Encompass commenced this subrogation action seeking to recover approximately $400,000 in damages arising out of this fire. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 3).

II.STANDARD OF ...


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