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State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Lambert

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 21, 2017

STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY CO., Plaintiff,
v.
TANISHA LAMBERT Defendant.

          Joseph J. Bellew, COZEN O'CONNOR, Wilmington, DE Michael D. O'Donnell, COZEN O'CONNOR, Philadelphia, PA Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Eileen M. Ford, MARKS, O'NEILL, O'BRIEN, DOHERTY & KELLY, P.C., Wilmington, DE Attorney for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Stark, U.S. District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Tanisha Lambert's ("Defendant" or "Lambert") motion to dismiss Plaintiff State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.'s ("Plaintiff or "State Farm") complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) ("Motion"). (See D.I. 13) For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff provided property insurance to Timothy O'Connell ("O'Connell") for his property located at 302 Porter Street, Wilmington, DE ("Property") pursuant to insurance policy number 98-BT-7407-8. (See D.I. 1 ¶¶ 5-6) Defendant leased the Property from March 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008, following which the lease became a month-to-month tenancy. (See D.I. 15 Ex. A at 1) The lease agreement ("Lease") was a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") lease made through the Wilmington Housing Authority and included a Housing Assistance Payments Contract. (See Id. at 4)

         The Lease provided the following tenant's obligations:

The tenant shall keep the dwelling unit in a clean and sanitary condition and upon termination of this lease surrender the dwelling unit to the owner in as good condition as it is on the beginning date of this lease, reasonable wear and tear and damage by the elements excepted. . . .
The tenant will be responsible for damages to the unit and premises, other than normal wear and tear, that are caused by any member of the tenant's family, guests of the tenant, and persons under the tenant's control. . . .
The repair of tenant-caused damages must be completed by the owner at the expense of the tenant.

(Id. at 6 ¶ 2)

         On July 14, 2014, while Defendant was leasing the Property, Defendant lit a candle and left it unattended on the Property. (See D.I. 1 ¶¶ 8-9) "The candle came into contact with a couch and/or other combustibles in the living room, " causing a fire on the Property and, subsequently, substantial damage to the Property. (See Id. ¶¶ 10-12)

         Pursuant to its insurance policy, Plaintiff paid more than $100, 000 to O'Connell for the damages caused by the fire. (See Id. ¶ 13) "In accordance with common law principles of equitable and legal subrogation, and the terms of the [insurance policy], [Plaintiff] is subrogated to the rights of the [insurance policy] to the extent of the payments it made for the aforementioned property damage and lost rent." (Id. ¶ 14) Thereafter, on July 1, 2016, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant. (See D.I. 1) Plaintiffs complaint asserts negligence and breach of contract claims against Defendant for causing the fire and failing to pay for the subsequent property damage. (See Id. at ¶¶ 15-29)

         On April 20, 2017, Defendant filed its motion to dismiss the entirety of Plaintiff s complaint. (See Til. 13) The parties completed briefing on May 11, 2017. (See Til. 16) The Court heard ...


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