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Maryland Casualty Company, et al. v. NSTAR Electric Company, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-079-15)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-11741   MARYLAND CASUALTY COMPANY[1] & another[2]  vs.  NSTAR ELECTRIC COMPANY & another.[3] Middlesex.     January 5, 2015. – May 14, 2015.   Present:  Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.     Department of Public Utilities.  Public Utilities, Electric company, Rate structure, Negligence.  Negligence, Public utilities, Limitation of liability.       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on March 27, 2008.   The case was heard by Dennis J. Curran, J., on motions for summary judgment, and entry of a stipulated final judgment was ordered by him.   The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.     Matthew M. O’Leary (Andrew J. Fay with him) for the plaintiffs. Andrea Peraner-Sweet (Barbara L. Drury with her) for the defendants.     LENK, J.  This case raises the question whether a tariff filed with and approved by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) may limit a public utility from liability to nonresidential customers for special, indirect, or consequential damages resulting from the utility’s gross negligence.  We hold that a properly approved tariff may so limit a public utility’s liability. 1.  Background.  On December 8, 2006, two employees of NSTAR Electric and Gas were performing a switching procedure to restore electrical equipment that had been taken out of service.  During the procedure, an explosion occurred, igniting a fire in the basement of a building at One Broadway in Cambridge.  Smoke filled the basement and flowed into the stairwells leading up to the other floors of the building.  The fire and smoke resulted in extensive damage to the building, requiring its closure for approximately six weeks.  Construction and repairs continued for a lengthy period of time thereafter. At the time of the fire, the building was owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  MIT leased space in the building to Cambridge Incubator, Inc. (Cambridge Incubator),[4] Sedo.com, LLC (Sedo), and Allodia Corporation (Allodia).  Cambridge Incubator and Sedo purchased insurance coverage from Maryland Casualty Corporation (Maryland Casualty); Allodia purchased insurance coverage from Assurance Company of America (Assurance).  In the wake of the fire, Maryland Casualty paid claims by Cambridge Incubator and Sedo, and Assurance paid claims by Allodia. Maryland Casualty and Assurance then brought this complaint against NSTAR Electric Company and NSTAR Electric & Gas Company (collectively, NSTAR), seeking to recover for […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - May 14, 2015 at 2:58 pm

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