Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Vermont Mutual Insurance Co., Inc. v. Sondrini Enterprises

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 15, 2019

VERMONT MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
SONDRINI ENTERPRISES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL AND/OR TO AMEND THE JUDGMENT (DKT. NO. 66)

          KATHERFNE A. ROBERTSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the court on the plaintiffs, Vermont Mutual Insurance Company, Inc.'s ("Vermont Mutual" or "Plaintiff'), motion for a new trial and/or to amend the judgment after a jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, Sondrini Enterprises ("Sondrini" or 'Defendant"). Vermont Mutual brought claims for negligence and breach of warranty against Sondrini as the subrogee of Roger and Pamela Manzolini. The Manzolinis' residence in Richmond, Massachusetts was destroyed by fire on November 26, 2013. Vermont Mutual alleged that the fire was caused by Sondrini's faulty installation of a chimney at the Manzolinis' home. The jury found that Sondrini was negligent and breached the express and implied warranties to install the chimney in a workmanlike manner and to use reasonable skill in its construction, but its negligence and warranty breaches were not the proximate cause of the property damage loss.

         Plaintiff claims that a new trial is required because the jury's answers to the questions on the verdict form as to each claim were inconsistent with each other and with the verdict for Defendant. For the reasons that follow, Vermont Mutual's motion is DENIED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A recitation of the pertinent jury instructions and the wording of the verdict form are necessary to the resolution of Vermont Mutual's motion.

         A. Instructions to the Jury

         The court delivered the following instructions on the claims of negligence and breach of warranty:

         1. Negligence

         Plaintiff Vermont Mutual Insurance Company alleges that Defendant Sondrini Enterprises was negligent when it designed and/or installed the chimney at the Manzolinis' home. Generally, negligence is the failure to exercise that degree of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the circumstances.

         In order for Plaintiff to prevail on the negligence claim in this case, it must prove all of the following four elements by a preponderance of the evidence:

First: Sondrini owed the Manzolinis a duty of reasonable care;
Second: Sondrini breached its duty of care by not acting reasonably under the circumstances;
Third: Injuries or damages are directly related to Sondrini's breach of its duty of care and would not have occurred but for Sondrini's breach of its duty of care; and
Fourth: Roger and Pamela Manzolini suffered injuries or damages.

         First,

         Plaintiff must prove that Sondrini owed the Manzolinis a duty of reasonable care. Here, "reasonable care" means the care that an ordinary, reasonably prudent contractor would exercise under similar circumstances. . . .

         The second element Plaintiff must prove is that Sondrini was negligent; that is, that Sondrini breached its duty of care by failing to exercise the degree of care that a reasonably prudent chimney installation contractor would have exercised under the circumstances. Plaintiff can prove this element in one of two ways. Plaintiff can show by a preponderance of the evidence that Sondrini either (1) did something that a reasonably prudent chimney installation contractor would not do under similar circumstances; or (2) failed to do something that a reasonably prudent chimney installation contractor would do under similar circumstances.

         If you determine that the Plaintiff has proved that Sondrini breached its duty to the Manzolinis, you must then consider whether the Plaintiff has proved the third element - causation - by a preponderance of the evidence. Even if the Plaintiff has proved the other elements by a preponderance of the evidence, you cannot find Sondrini liable unless there was a causal relation between its negligence and the damages.

         To meet its burden to prove causation, the Plaintiff has the burden to show that Sondrini's negligent conduct was the proximate cause of the Manzolinis' damages. The Plaintiff is not required to eliminate entirely all possibility that Sondrini's conduct was not a cause. To meet its burden, the Plaintiff need only show that there was a greater likelihood or probability that the damages were due to causes for which Sondrini was responsible than from any other cause.

         Sondrini's conduct was the cause of the Manzolinis' damages if the damages would not have occurred but for Sondrini's negligence. In other words, if the damages would have happened anyway, Sondrini is not liable. If you find that it is at least equally probable that the negligence was that of another, including the Manzolinis themselves, then Sondrini is not liable.

         The occurrence of an accident, such as a fire, standing alone, is not always evidence of negligence. If you find that the precise cause of the fire is left to conjecture or guesswork and may as reasonably be attributed to a condition for which no liability attaches as to one for which it does, then you must return a verdict for Sondrini. On the other hand, the Plaintiff is not required to point out the exact way in which the fire occurred as long as it showed a greater likelihood that the damages came from an act of negligence for which Sondrini was responsible.

         The fourth element that Plaintiff must prove is that Roger and Pamela Manzolini suffered injuries or damages. In this case, the parties have agreed that the Manzolinis suffered injuries or damages so you need not deliberate on that element; you may treat it as proved by the Plaintiff.

         2. Breach of the Implied Warranty

         ... In order for the Plaintiff to prevail on its breach of implied warranty claim, it must prove the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence:

First, Sondrini had a duty to install and/or design the chimneys in a workmanlike manner and to use reasonable skill in its [sic] construction;
Second, Sondrini failed to install and/or design the chimneys in a workmanlike manner and to use reasonable skill in its ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.