Safeco Insurance Co. v. Mobile Power And Light Co.

810 So.2d 756 (2001)


On August 20, 1996, a fire consumed Audrey and Brenda Loyd's home. This was the third fire the Loyds had suffered at the same home in a two-year period. In 1994, a fire heavily damaged their home. In 1996, a second fire erupted in the panel box 'only a few months prior to the [August 1996] fire.' The Loyds hired D to repair their electrical system after the 1994 fire. P paid the Loyds' claim under their homeowner's insurance policy and was subrogated to their interest. P sued D alleging that D had negligently repaired the electrical wiring and that its negligence had caused the August 1996 fire. D moved for a summary judgment and it was granted. P appealed. The court reversed the summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. D appealed. The evidence presented as follows: The county Building Inspector issued D all three of the permits required for its work on the Loyds' home after the 1994 fire. Ted Blunt, a licensed master electrician, and the inspector conducted the 'rough-in' and 'service-release' inspections. Blunt approved the overall plans, the type and size of the wire to be used, and the installation methods to be used. Blunt also tested the circuits and authorized the activation of power to the Loyds' residence. John Freil, another inspector conducted the final inspection. All of the work conformed to the National Electrical Code. D's work did not breach any applicable standard of care. d performed no other work for the Loyds after their house passed final inspection in December 1994. P hired Casellas, an expert technical consultant, to conduct an investigation into the cause and origin of the third fire. He determined that the third fire began in the circuit breaker/disconnect panel of the ventilation closet. He could not determine with any certainty 'what happened there.' Casellas attributed the last fire to one of three possible defects: (1) improper lug torque during installation, (2) mechanical failure of the screwed lug, or (3) thermal shrinkage of the conductor inside the lug.