October 10, 2019.
N.E.3d 455] CIVIL ACTION commenced in the Superior Court
Department on July 11, 2016, The case was heard by Gregg J.
Pasquale, J., on a motion for summary judgment.
E. Gericke, of Pennsylvania (Patrick J. Loftus, III, also
present) for the plaintiff.
R. Byrne for the defendant.
Wolohojian, Blake, & Englander, JJ.
Following a natural gas fire that caused extensive damage to
a building that Penn-America Insurance Company (Penn-America)
insured, Penn-America brought this action, as subrogee for
its insured (King Street Realty Trust), against the
building’s natural gas supplier, Bay State Gas Company, doing
business as Columbia Gas of Massachusetts (Columbia Gas). The
before us is whether the statute of repose bars
Penn-America’s claim that Columbia Gas failed to maintain its
more than fifteen year old equipment and thereby caused the
fire. On Columbia Gas’s motion for summary judgment, a judge
of the Superior Court ordered judgment in favor of Columbia
Gas after concluding that Penn-America’s claim was time
barred. Because we disagree, we vacate the judgment.
summarize the facts contained in the summary judgment record
in the light most favorable to Penn-America. See Barrasso
v. New Century Mtge. Corp., 91 Mass.App.Ct. 42, 43, 69
N.E.3d 1010 (2017). The history of this case dates back to
1996, when Columbia Gas installed a natural gas service line
for a building located at 59 Lone Street in Marshfield (the
building). That installation included a riser pipe that came
out of the ground near the building and a gas meter fit that
was attached to the riser pipe through a high-pressure valve.
The riser pipe was not secured to the building or otherwise
supported. Columbia Gas continued to own this equipment even
after it was installed. Over the next two decades, Columbia
Gas sometimes had occasion to inspect, repair, or replace its
equipment located at the building, including once in [138
N.E.3d 456] 1998 when it repaired or replaced the natural gas
service line, and another time on September 5, 2014, when
Columbia Gas responded to a report of a gas leak.
a natural gas fire caused extensive damage to the building on
February 16, 2015, amidst record-setting snowstorms. While
the cause of the fire remains in dispute, there is evidence
that the weight of snow caused the gas meter fit to break
above the high-pressure valve, from which gas leaked and then
ignited. Penn-America brought this negligence action alleging
that, prior to the fire, Columbia Gas had occasion to see how
its equipment had been installed and had "fail[ed] to
detect and/or correct" problems associated with that
installation. In opposing Columbia Gas’s motion for summary
judgment, Penn-America clarified that this portion of its
claim was based on Columbia Gas’s continuing duty to maintain
its equipment in compliance with State and Federal
regulations, which required Columbia Gas to install supports
for the riser pipe no later than September 5, 2014.
Penn-America further alleged that Columbia Gas failed to warn
of the dangers posed by its incorrectly installed equipment
and, in particular, that the weight of snow and ice could
cause its equipment to break.