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Breaking Legal Developments


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


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:      This weekly newsletter covers:

  1. Texas Court Upholds Judgment Heater Caused Fire


In Sears, et al v. Steven Abell, Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, (Feb. 10, 2005), Steven Abell purchased a heating unit from Sears in September of 1997. Included in the purchase was the installation costs. Appellant Sears had an existing contract with Appellant D/FW which provided that D/FW was to install the unit in the Abell home as an authorized Sears contractor. Appellant D/FW, without permission from Sears, had contracted with Randy Sprinkle d/b/a Texas Air Conditioning and Plumbing, to install the heating unit. The heating unit was installed in the Abell home on September 10, 1997. On the morning of November 17, 1997, the heating unit caught fire causing significant damage to the Abells' home and personal property.

A subsequent investigation by the City of Arlington and the fire arson investigator revealed that the heating unit had not been installed correctly and that none of the Appellants had obtained the necessary permits from the City of Arlington. The determination of the fire arson investigator and the electrical inspector was that the cause of the fire was the use of faulty connections to install the heating unit.

The evidence before the jury established that the Sprinkle employees did not obtain the appropriate permits from the City of Arlington nor did they request or obtain a City inspection of the installation. Further, the evidence clearly established that the installation was defective because of the type of wiring which existed in the Abell home and the type of wiring that the heating unit contained. Ample evidence existed to support the jury's finding that the manner in which the heating unit was installed was defective and that the improper installation of the unit was negligent and a breach of the contract that Sprinkle had entered into with D/FW.

Judgment of the trial court 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), Follow us on Twitter at @firesandrain.

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