Firm News

News about our firm and from around the Subrogation World

$614,974.00 Recovered on Three Consecutive Spontaneous Combustion Fires - Same Product and Fact Patterns!

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During the last five months, RMI recovered $614,974.00 on three spontaneous combustion fires, each in a different part of Ohio, but all involving the same product and fact patterns.

All three fires were initially believed to be related to other causes, but later determined to be the result of improper use of staining products.

Two of the losses were during the final phase of construction projects.  All three cases involved Minwax brand staining products.  In all instances the manufacturer’s warning and instructions as to proper use and rag disposal were not followed.

The first recovery involved a $204,974.00 settlement in eastern Ohio (Trumbull County) involving an extensive office remodeling project.  The settlement was close to the total recoverable loss.  Initially, the fire was believed to be related to an electric heater in the origin area.  A review of burn patterns, systematic ruling out of an electrical failure, and the evidence of staining being accomplished in another area of the building shifted the focus.

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RMI Presentations on Product Liability at NASP “Virtual” Spring Conference

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Product liability was the theme of this past month’s National Association of Subrogation Professionals Spring Conference. The conference, originally scheduled to take place in Nashville, Tennessee, was converted to a virtual conference.

RMI Attorney Dustin Smith, along with Mike Jacob, PE of Veritas Engineering presented a program on Cost-Effective Investigations of Product Liability Claims Involving Plumbing Products and Appliances.

RMI Attorney David Matejczyk, along with defense Attorney Tracy Knox of Barnes & Thornburg presented a program titled “Chess Match...What are They Thinking? Plaintiff and Defense Perspective on the Product Liability Loss.”

Product Liability Claims Involving Plumbing Products and Appliances

The presentation by Dustin Smith and Mike Jacob reviewed common water-based product failures in both the residential and commercial context. The presentation examined current trends and failure modes in brass fittings, polybutylene and cross-linked polyethylene hoses and other plumbing products.

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RMI $651,335.00 SUBRO VERDICT UPHELD BY OHIO APPELLATE COURT

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March 16, 2020

In a unanimous decision, the Ohio 10th Appellate District has upheld a $651,335.00 jury verdict in favor of a subrogated insurer and its insured. The case, COMTEX, et al. v. Turner / PSC Metals was tried in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, and argued in the appellate court by RMI Attorneys Glenna Roberts and Dustin Smith.

The February 20, 2020 ruling upheld a verdict that had been challenged in post-trial motions and then on appeal since the verdict was rendered back in 2017. The original verdict after a four day trial involved a commercial subrogation claim asserting a large nationwide metal recycling corporation had wrongfully converted product belonging to the insured.

The appellate court ruled that the trial judge properly decided a duty to mitigate instruction was inapplicable under the facts of the case. The opinion noted “the duty to mitigate arises only where the injured party has knowledge that it has sustained damages.” The court also held that under Ohio law, contributory fault is not available as an affirmative defense in a conversion case. The appellate court further ruled the trial court did not err in denying the defense motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial.

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RMI SETTLES $550,000.00 GAS EXPLOSION CASE: Second large loss gas explosion settlement in back to back months

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RMI in back to back months has recovered by way of settlement two significant six digit gas explosion cases.

This past month the firm settled a natural gas explosion that destroyed an insured’s commercial building in Columbus, Ohio. The previous month RMI resolved a residential explosion that completely destroyed a home. On both losses, the firm was retained within twenty-four hours after the explosions.

The $550,000.00 commercial building settlement was very close to the calculated actual cash value of the loss.

Despite being on site immediately, there was “catch up” involved as the gas company had already commenced return to service repairs.

The loss involved a main gas line servicing several city blocks. Luckily, an evacuation of the insured’s building occurred minutes prior to the blast that rocked the downtown area. The blast destroyed the insured’s building and displaced multiple commercial tenants.

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RMI OBTAINS $651,355.00 JURY VERDICT ON SUBRO PROPERTY LOSS

Dustin Glenna Verdict Cropped

After a four day trial, a Franklin County, Ohio jury issued a verdict in favor of a subrogated insurer and its insured, awarding damages in the amount of $651,355.00.

The case, COMTEX, et al. v. Turner / PSC Metals, was tried by Roberts, Matejczyk & Ita attorneys Glenna Roberts and Dustin Smith.

The $651,355.00 award was the exact amount requested in closing by Attorney Roberts.

The subrogated insurer and insured successfully argued that the defendant, a large nationwide scrap metal company, had wrongfully converted product belonging to the insured. The defendant made only a nominal offer prior to trial. The case involved expert testimony as to standards of care in the industry and valuations.

On the fourth day of trial, the case went to the jury, who deliberated for two hours before making the award. A motion for prejudgment interest has been filed.

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ATTORNEY DUSTIN SMITH JOINS RMI - Brings Engineering Background to Firm

Attorney Dustin Smith Hard Hat

Dustin Smith has joined Roberts, Matejczyk & Ita Co. as an associate attorney.

“Dustin brings an engineering background that makes him a natural fit to the property section of our subrogation practice,” noted partner Glenna Roberts.

He will primarily work on subrogation assignments from insurers involving commercial and residential fires, cases involving electrical and mechanical failures, water losses, construction defects, structure failures and product liability claims.

Dustin is a 2014 graduate of Cleveland Marshall College of Law and a 2010 graduate of the engineering program at the Ohio State University. At Ohio State he obtained his bachelor degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. He was a member of the university’s freshman Engineering Honors Program.

His engineering studies included extensive course work in electrical circuits, structural stress analysis, fluid dynamics and thermodynamics. While in college, Dustin also worked for a construction company in Columbus, Ohio.

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