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St. Philip's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Wilmington v. Delmarva Power & Light Co.

Superior Court of Delaware

July 31, 2018

ST. PHILIP'S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH OF WILMINGTON, DELAWARE, Plaintiff,
v.
DELMARVA POWER & LIGHT COMPANY, Defendant.

          Date Submitted: May 3, 2018

          On Defendant Delmarva Power & Light Co.'s Motion to Dismiss.

         DENIED, in part, and GRANTED, in part.

          David G. Culley, Esquire, Tybout, Redfearn & Pell, Attorney for Plaintiff.

          Vicki L. Shoemaker, Esquire, Pepco Holdings, LLC, Attorney for Defendant.

          OPINION

          Calvin L. Scott, Jr., Judge

         This action arises from an agreement between St. Philips Evangelical Lutheran Church of Wilmington (Plaintiff) and Delmarva Power & Light Co. (Defendant) by which Delmarva would relocate underground electrical transmission equipment located on the property where St. Philips built its new facility.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         St. Philips brought this cause of action alleging breach of contract, fraud, and trespass and negligence. Delmarva seeks dismissal of the trespass and negligence count as well as the count of fraud. Plaintiff is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

         St. Philips owns a parcel of land located at 5320 Limestone Road in Wilmington, Delaware. The property is bounded on two sides by Limestone Road and Ferris Drive. In order to construct their new facility St. Philips was required to relocate certain underground utility cables that existed on the property prior to their acquisition of the property. In July 2015, the parties entered into an agreement for Defendant to relocate the lines. Plaintiff paid a deposit for the estimated cost of the project in the amount of $72, 500. The relocation work was completed later in July 2015 for which Plaintiff was billed $116, 800.

         Parties Assertions

         Plaintiff alleges they entered into a contract for the relocation of underground power lines running through their property parallel to Limestone Road in Wilmington, Delaware. The complaint states Defendant undertook that work by the request of Plaintiff, and the work along Ferris Drive was undertaken by Defendant of their own accord. The complaint states this work along Ferris Drive was "more than three times as long" as the work completed along Limestone Road.[1]

         Plaintiff's complaint for fraud is a claim of fraud in the inducement. Plaintiff claims they were induced to pay a deposit of $72, 500 prior to the commencement of work with the assurance that a reconciliation of costs would be provided at the completion of Defendant's work. Plaintiff further alleges Defendant's conduct after work was completed is indicative of Defendant's intention not to honor the contractual terms agreed by the parties. Plaintiff claims they reasonably relied on the assurances made by Defendant that a cost reconciliation of the work requested and the work undertaken would be provided after completion. As a result of their reliance Plaintiff claims they are owed damages in the amount of the difference between the total amount paid, minus the work performed parallel to Limestone Road. In connection to the fraud claim, Plaintiff seeks an award of punitive damages.

         Plaintiff's negligence claim seeks reimbursement for work completed to restore the land affected by Defendant's excavation work. Plaintiff claims they were cited by New Castle County and barred from continuing work until the area disturbed by Defendant was restored and stabilized. Plaintiff claims the restoration work required an additional expenditure of $4, 200 for this work which should have been completed by Defendant as part of their facility relocation work.

         Defendant moves to dismiss the count of fraud, and the combined count of negligence and trespass. Defendant argues Plaintiff cannot satisfy the elements of trespass, and the statute ...


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