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Breaking Legal Developments


Published by:
Peter A. Lynch, Esq.
of Cozen O'Connor


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:      This weekly newsletter covers:

  1. New York Court Affirms Attempted Arson Charge For Tampering With Water Heater
  2. Third Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Action Against Alarm Company


In People v. Krug, 2001 NYSlipOp 03265 (Apr. 19, 2001), the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, reviewed defendant's attempted arson conviction. William Riley, an investigator with the Albany County Sheriff's Department, testified that he went to the house four days after the incident and in the basement near the hot water heater he found two reset switches to a hot water heater (one was burnt), a burnt/partially melted plastic guard and a small piece of heavy wire. He testified that the plastic guard was the covering for the burnt reset switch. The wire was U-shaped, and the U shape of the wire matched the location of the burn marks on the burnt reset switch. Thereafter, Riley spoke with defendant who eventually gave a written statement that, on the date of the incident, he shut off the intake valve to the hot water tank "as an act of vengeance" because Krug made him "angry and upset". Defendant also stated that he realized that "shutting off the water to the hot water tank could have caused it to overheat and get hot enough to cause a fire. I know this because it has happened to me in the past " (emphasis supplied). He further stated, "A while ago I had a similar incident occur where the circuits on a hot water tank have melted and started to burn. I have also seen the damage that this act could have resulted in several years ago when I was in New Jersey I had a fire at my house which was caused by a hot water tank, and it pretty much destroyed everything."

The court upheld the conviction finding the defendant acted with the intent to set fire to the house, engaged in conduct which could have resulted in a fire and did so with the knowledge that his ex-wife and children were in the home.


In Krueger Associates, Inc. v. The American District Telegraph Co., et al., Case Nos. 00-1125/00-1138, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the District Court's granting of a summary judgment motion. The plaintiff was a tenant in a commercial building damaged by fire. It sued the fire and burglar alarms service company even though it had no contract with ADT. That contract was with another party. The complaint alleged a variety of causes of action alleging ADT's alarm system failed to alert fire fighters of the blaze in a timely manner allowing the fire to burn out of control.

The causes of action included strict liability, negligence, breach of implied warranty, fraud and negligent misrepresentation. The court found no strict liability because harm to the owner's property was foreseeable consequence of the alarm system's malfunctioning not the result of a product that was defective. There was no merit to the negligence cause of action because there was no duty owed there being no contract between the parties. There could be no fraud cause of action because there was no detrimental reliance by the plaintiff. Moreover, any post loss statements could not as a matter of law support a negligent misrepresentation cause of action. The judgment to include an award of attorneys fees was affirmed.

Mr. Lynch can be reached at Cozen and O'Connor, 501 West Broadway, Suite 1610, San Diego, California 92101, 800-782-3366 (voice), 619-234-7831 (fax), (e-mail),, emergency loss assistance - pager (619) 333-2713.

Please direct comments, suggestions, stories, and other items to the author by e-mail at

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