Insurance company blames cleaning business for property fire

By Kasey Schefflin-Emrich | Oct 1, 2015

A property and casualty insurance provider is suing a cleaning business, alleging negligence caused a fire at one of its insured properties.

General Casualty Company of Wisconsin, as subrogee of Bandhu Brothers Inc., Wingharts Burgers & Bar and Pittsburgh Real Estate Company, filed a lawsuit Aug. 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Apex Hood Cleaning of New Brighton, alleging negligence and breach of contract.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff's insureds entered into a contract with the defendant prior to Oct. 4, 2014, in which Apex Hood agreed to perform cleaning and maintenance services to the vent hood, exhaust system and related ductwork in the kitchen of property at 5 Market Square, Pittsburgh, where the insureds operated a restaurant.

The suit states when the defendant removed access panels on the duct system in order to perform its services, the access panel fell into the system which the defendant failed to retrieve and replace.

The civil action says a fire occurred at the property Oct. 4, 2014, because of a buildup of grease and debris that accumulated in the exhaust duct as a result of an obstruction caused by the access panel in the duct system. According to the suit, the fire caused substantial damage and destruction to the property.

The suit faults the defendant with violating the provisions of the National Fire Protection Code, failing to properly test and inspect the hood and duct system, and allowing a fire hazard to exist by failing to remove the obstruction.

General Casualty Company seeks damages of more than $250,000, plus attorney fees, court costs and other relief deemed appropriate by the court. It is represented by attorney Mark E. Opalisky of Cozen O'Connor in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case number 2:15-cv-01004-MPK.

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